A knife assault at a Wedgefield area church Sunday morning has left a parishioner seriously injured and his alleged attacker is behind bars.
The suspect, 65-year-old Billy Lewis of Byron Lane in Wedgefield has been charged with attempted murder and is being held at the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center.
Witnesses told law enforcement around 9:20 a.m. Sunday at St. Paul AME Shaw Church the suspect, sitting in one of the pews during services, suddenly stood and began attacking the man sitting in front of him, stabbing him several times.
The victim, described as a man in his 60s, was airlifted from the scene to Palmetto Health Richland, being treated for injuries that officials only described as severe. A nurse who happened to be attending services as well rendered aid to the victim until paramedics arrived.
“This is certainly a tragic event,” said Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis. “As bad as it was, we are fortunate it was no worse. Our thoughts and prayers go out the church members as well as the victim and his family and the suspect.”
Counselors from the victims’ advocates office at the sheriff’s office are providing assistance to church members witnessing the event.
Ken Bell, spokesman for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, said investigators have not been able to determine a motive for the attack and said there is no known prior incident between the two men. Bell said Lewis also has a past history of mental health issues, but that investigators do not know of any history of violence involving the suspect.
The investigation into the incident continues, and Lewis could face additional charges.