North Carolina

NC man ‘grabbed the preacher,’ arrested after stripping naked in church service

A churchgoer in Gastonia was arrested after being accused of stripping naked, shouting and screaming and punching a fellow congregant in the head, according to police.

The incident was reported Sunday and jail records show Christopher Patton Gossage, 39, of Gastonia, has been in police custody all week. Gastonia Police officials say he’s been charged with indecent exposure, as well as misdemeanors of simple assault, resisting an officer, disorderly conduct/disturbing the peace and second-degree trespass.

Police allege the problem started when Gossage “suddenly stood up” inside the church “and started being disruptive.” Church leaders escorted him out of the service but “he took off his shirt and ran inside and grabbed the preacher,” according to a statement from Gastonia Police Department to the Observer on Wednesday.

“He was escorted outside again where he took his clothes off in the parking lot and punched one of the church members,” the statement said.

Police in Gastonia say Gossage was charged with indecent exposure “for exposing his private parts in a public place and in the presence of people.”

‘Gotten the spirit’

Gossage is accused of attempting to re-enter the church but was “successfully detained” by church members long enough for police officers to arrive, officials with Gaston Police said. Police officers struggled with Gossage during his arrest and officers say he tried to avoid handcuffs by spitting on an officer. He was charged with resisting police after trying to bite one arresting officer, officials said.

A Gastonia police report shows the incident happened at H.I.S. Frontline Ministry on North Highland Street. People in the church who witnessed the incident could not be reached for comment by the Observer.

But Pastor Scottie Cochran told WJZY that Gossage, a member of the church for two months, told him he’d “gotten the spirit” before removing his clothes.

The church posted a Facebook video of Sunday morning’s service but included no footage of Gossage or the acts of which he’s accused.

The video shows a woman addressing the congregation toward the end of the morning service. She refers to a man outside the church causing an issue and says she told him: “I’m not fearful of you. You’re not going to stand on our property and expose yourself.”

“That’s a small taste of what’s going to happen,” she warns the congregation. “If we are not ready, the enemy will try to overtake us. But the spirit of God that lives within us brought you here to equip you ... to get ready to fight the devil, with the Lord on your side. God will fight our battles.”

The next day, the church wrote on its Facebook page: “Remember EVERYTHING the devil meant for evil our God is going to make good!”

Christopher Gossage.jpg
Christopher Patton Gossage, 39, of Gastonia was jailed on $5,000 bail late Sunday. Oct. 27, 2019. Gaston County jail
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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.