Woman Who Punched Reader During Mass Identified, Not Facing Charges, Philadelphia Police Say
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Police say a woman who punched a reader during Sunday mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul has been identified but will not be charged. Police sources tell CBS3 detectives served a search warrant Monday afternoon in North Philadelphia following a tip.
Sources say it all stemmed from a solid lead in identifying the woman who threw a pair of punches yesterday. It happened in the middle of mass.
The woman was questioned but police declined to file charges.
The woman who was attacked during mass is speaking out. She spoke with CBS3's Joe Holden and gave him a detailed account of the incident.
Sarah Contrucci, who had just read an Old Testament reading, was hit twice in the face. Eyewitness News spoke with her Monday about the disturbing incident.
Contrucci left work at a nearby hospital to walk us through the moment at the 11 a.m. mass that has since netted the Archdiocese of Philadelphia attention from around the world, according to the Cathedral Rector Father Dennis Gill.
Contrucci said she never saw her attacker before and adds the woman was mumbling "something about respecting God" while striking her in the face.
"I saw somebody there that clearly seemed to be waiting there and I was a little worried that she was going to attempt to make a scene of some sort, to disrupt the mass," Contrucci said. "So I was thinking that I wanted to do whatever I could to keep the situation calm and respectful and so I just wanted to get back to my pew and allow the mass to resume."
Contrucci says she is fine and did not need any medical attention.
The Archdiocese says the incident was quickly addressed out of sight of cameras that live-streamed the attack as hundreds of people were watching mass from home.
Father Gill addressed the criticism that people in the pews sat idly by while the attack played out.
"Many people are asking me what people didn't jump up out of the pew, why people didn't leave the sanctuary. I could speak for myself, if I was here, the way I'm built, I would have been there. I know that" Father Gill said. "Other people don't feel free to do that, fear overcomes them. I think everyone can ask themselves the question: What would I have done? And the answers would be maybe similar to the people who were here in church or different, I'm not sure. I don't want to second-guess anyone who was here yesterday."
Contrucci also said she wanted the incident to just die down and let the police do their work.
Father Gill says the church, which is open daily, will work with Philadelphia Police to elevate security measures.
A spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney says "the mayor is disturbed by what appears to be an unprovoked act of violence in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul during Sunday's service. But it would be inappropriate to comment further as the matter is still being investigated by the police department."
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