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A pastor escaped death when a man pointed a gun to his face and pulled the trigger. Then he told the gunman he forgave him

By Holly Yan, CNN

(CNN) — No one thought much about the new face at Jesus’ Dwelling Place Church on Sunday. The tight-knit congregation outside Pittsburgh often welcomed guests, and Pastor Glenn Germany assumed the young man was a friend of a parishioner.

Germany was delivering a sermon about “walking in the ways of God” when the young man in the black T-shirt calmly walked up to the pulpit, raised a gun toward Germany’s face and pulled the trigger.

The pastor’s mind froze. But his body sprang into action.

Germany covered his head with his hands and bolted behind a lectern. The horror was captured on the church’s live-streaming video.

The deacon behind the video camera, Clarence McCallister, was about 20 feet away when he saw the gunman aim at Germany’s head and pull the trigger. But no gunshot was heard. “The (bullet) got caught in the chamber. The gun actually got jammed,” McCallister told CNN.

But before the gunman had a chance to fire again, McCallister – a former cross-country runner – sprinted from behind his tripod, jumped over a wood railing and landed in the pulpit – where he promptly tackled the gunman to the ground.

The pastor – realizing he had not been shot – peeked out from behind the lectern and rushed to help McCallister subdue the assailant.

“He didn’t really put up a fight,” Germany said.

So once McCallister wrangled the gun away, the pastor was able to restrain the suspect by himself while waiting for police to arrive.

The pastor asked the gunman why he did it. “He told me the spirits got into his head,” Germany said.

That’s when both men exchanged surprising words.

“Look, I’m not mad at you,” the pastor told the gunman. “I understand. I want you to know I love you.”

The gunman “said he was sorry. He apologized to me,” Germany said.

The pastor then extended an offer to the man who nearly ended his life.

“I just told him if you need anything, this is my name, and get in touch with me. And as much as I can help you while you’re (incarcerated), I’ll help.”

Police arrived and took the suspect, 26-year-old Bernard Junior Polite, into custody. They also examined the gun and opened it for Germany to see, the pastor said.

Indeed, there was a live bullet that got lodged in the chamber. “You can see the dents in the bullet where it was stuck,” Germany said.

The pastor said he is processing the trauma well, but his daughter was despondent after learning her father was nearly killed.

“The thing that hurt me the most was … watching her go through the pain,” Germany said. So he took her to a restaurant with games to help distract her from the near-tragedy.

Germany said his thoughts are now with the suspect’s family. Hours after the horror at the church Sunday, police found the body of 56-year-old Derek Polite at Bernard Polite’s home.

Authorities said Derek Polite, who was shot, was a relative of Bernard Polite. But police did not say how the men were related.

As of Tuesday morning, Derek Polite’s death remained under investigation, and no charges had been filed, Allegheny County police told CNN.

Bernard Polite remains in custody for the church incident, charged with attempted criminal homicide, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person, court records show. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.

As for the pastor, Germany said he’s alive thanks to the “ways of God” – exactly what he was preaching about when he survived a man pulling a trigger in front of his face.

“Most people say this is a miracle. But I see it as the ways of God. If you walk in the way God wants you to walk, you get the protection of God,” Germany said.

“I’ve seen God. And he’s administering the angels and jamming guns for you. I know that sounds spooked out, but … I credit it to Him.”

CNN’s Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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