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Stunned church community cancels services for the week, prays for Bishop’s recovery

PELHAM – As police from local, county and state agencies continued their extensive investigation Sunday into the circumstances of Saturday morning’s sudden outbreak of gunfire during a wedding at the New England Pentecostal Church, its leadership began reaching out to the extended church community asking for prayers, especially for longtime Bishop Stanley Choate, the most seriously injured of the three victims.

Choate, who was presiding over the wedding, was shot in the chest, police said, and was listed in serious condition late Saturday at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

He was said to have undergone three surgeries by late Sunday, and one witness told news outlets the bishop seemed to be making progress.

Also shot was the bride, Claire McMullen, 60, who sustained a gunshot wound to the arm. She was treated at a local hospital and expected to recover, police said.

The groom, Mark Castiglione, also 60, suffered relatively minor injuries when the alleged gunman, Dale Holloway, 37, struck him in the head with the handgun, according to Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati.

Castiglione was treated at a local hospital and later released. McMullen was admitted to a local hospital, but was expected to be released on Sunday, Agati said.

Meanwhile, Holloway, who was promptly subdued by a host of wedding guests and turned over to police upon their arrival, was initially charged with one count of first-degree assault, a Class A felony that accuses him of “knowingly causing bodily injury to Bishop Choate by means of a deadly weapon” by shooting Choate in the chest, Agati said.

But Sunday afternoon, Agati announced four additional charges had been filed against Holloway: One count each of attempted murder; felon in possession of a firearm; second-degree assault; and simple assault.

The attempted murder charge accuses Holloway of “aiming a firearm at Bishop Choate and shooting (him) in the chest with a purpose that a murder be committed,” while the felon in possession offense alleges Holloway possessed a firearm after being convicted of a felony in a Massachusetts court.

The second-degree assault charge accuses Holloway of recklessly causing bodily injury to McMullen by shooting her in the arm, while the simple assault charge, a Class A misdemeanor, accuses him of striking Mark Castiglione with the firearm.

Holloway is being held in a Rockingham County jail pending arraignment, which, due to the Monday holiday, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Hillsborough County Superior Court South in Nashua.

In addition to asking the community for prayers, church leaders said they are “pleading with everyone to refrain from any acts of violence,” adding that violence “is not what the bishop would want.”

Leaders also announced that all the church’s services through Oct. 20 are cancelled. They said that anyone who wishes to attend services during that period can do so at the CCF Ministries church in Lowell, where Senior Pastor Raffoul Najem “has opened up his church to any members of NEP who would like to attend services,” according to the statement on NEP’s Website.

Police, meanwhile, continue to investigate the circumstances of the shooting, including what may have prompted Holloway to allegedly walk into the church armed with a handgun and shoot the bishop and the bride during the wedding ceremony.

Investigators have acknowleged a connection between Saturday’s incident and the Oct. 1 murder of Pastor Luis Garcia, who was shot to death in a Londonderry residence, allegedly by Brandon Castiglione, a 24-year-old Londonderry man who remains jailed in Rockingham County after pleading not guilty to second-degree murder charges.

Mark Castiglione, the groom in the process of getting married Saturday, is Brandon Castiglione’s father. The younger Castiglione is accused of shooting Garcia in the neck at 15 Ridgemont Drive in Londonderry, which is Mark Castiglione’s residence.

The alleged incidents appear to have another thread in common: Holloway, Saturday’s alleged shooter, is named in Garcia’s obituary. He is listed among Garcia’s numerous survivors and identified as one of Garcia’s three step-children.

A memorial service for Garcia had also been scheduled for Saturday at the church. It was to begin at noon, shortly after the conclusion of the wedding. Whether the service has been rescheduled isn’t known.

As for the police investigation, department officials kept residents apprised of their progress as often as possible. For instance, they sent out two emails through the town’s notification system, the first of which was around 10:30 Saturday night.

The message informed residents that police were conducting a “K9 track” in the northern section of Bridge Street, which is also Route 38. Police emphasized they were not searching for any suspects, but asked residents to keep their pets inside and use caution in the area.

The other message went out Sunday morning, notifying residents of “an increase in police presence” along Bridge Street in the area between the church and Hobbs Road, which is about a quarter-mile from the church.

On Saturday, meanwhile, Police Chief Joseph Roark credited the members of the wedding party and guests who jumped into action and “gang tackled” the suspect, who was later identified as Holloway.

When numerous police officers arrived “within moments” of the first 911 call, Roark said, they “immediately entered the church” and “discovered a number of parishioners pinning Dale Holloway down on the ground.”

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.