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Sanford Church Congregation Robbed At Gunpoint; One Man Shot

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SANFORD, N.C. — Two Sanford men are being held in the Lee County Jail on $100,000 bond each, accused of entering a church service Wednesday night, shooting a parishioner and robbing several others.

According to the Sanford Police Department, the two men have been charged with six counts each of robbery with a dangerous weapon, discharging a weapon into occupied property, assault with a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.

The suspects have been identified as 22-year-old Cornelius Laquan Richmond and 23-year-old Curtis Shabezz Murchison.

Police were called to the Seventh Day Adventist Hispanic Church at 406 Bragg Street Wednesday evening to investigate the shooting and robbery. Upon their arrival, police found Francisco Starlin on the floor with a gunshot wound in the right leg.

Witnesses said they were conducting service when two African-American males entered the church with assault rifles and demanded money.

Most of the parishioners were Hispanic and didn't speak English. Police believe that may have frustrated the suspects, who threw a 5-year-old child across the room.

Witnesses said that one of the suspects shot Starlin. The other suspect assaulted Luis Lopez, hitting him in the mouth with the barrel of his rifle.

Police say the suspects collected cash and ladies' purses, along with other property from the members of the congregation.

According to witnesses, the suspects fired four shots into the church while the congregation was still inside.

With help from the Sanford Selective Enforcement Unit, the Highway Patrol and a K-9 unit, the police were able to track down the alleged assailants in an area near the chuch. The suspects were arrested around 5 a.m. Thursday.

Police recovered some of the stolen property and also got the weapons allegedly used in the robbery.

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