Police arrest homeless man in Brooklyn church caretaker murder

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Swayne James Jr. and his aunt Veronica Loomis, the victim’s sister, were surrounded by clergy after the murder and Borough President Adams on right. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Police arrested a 39-year-old drug-addicted homeless man in the shooting death of a 62-year-old church caretaker inside the Brooklyn sanctuary where he worked on Monday.

Detectives charged Moriyah Lewis, last listed address as Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, with murdering Edward “Swayne” James of Jefferson Street in the vestibule of Glorious Church of God in Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant about 5:10 p.m. Monday, police say.

James, who was shot four times in the back trying to escape the man who he was trying to bar from entering the church. He was found on the second floor of the church, a trail of blood leading to his body. He was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital.

A police officer consoles a woman mourning outside of Glorious Church of God in Christ after caretaker was fatally shot. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

According to Pastor David Perry, the man was living in his car and was being allowed to keep belongings inside the church building as they tried to “heal him from his drug addiction.” James was also “healed” from alcoholism and was taken off the streets and became “a beacon of light for the community.”

Following James’ death, which was among numerous shootings across the city, community leaders rallied outside the church demanding better police protection and an arrest in the case.  

Church leaders were joined by his son and sister in calling for justice for James and the neighborhood. Bishop Gerald Seabrook of the United Clergy Coalition called the surge in shootings, “systemic racism.”

Bishop Gerald Seabrook says violence was result of “systemic racism.” (Photo by Todd Maisel)

“We have seriously insane people on our street, and we gotta get ’em off these streets,” said activist Tony Herbert. “And Mayor de Blasio, the blood is on your hands! Where the hell are you? Where are you?”

Only minutes after that rally at the church, another man was shot only blocks away. He was treated at a local hospital.

Police from the 81st Precinct were charging Lewis with the murder of James and criminal possession of a loaded firearm. Investigators say the weapon was recovered, but would not provide further details as to where the suspect was nabbed or where the gun was recovered.

He was walked out of the 81st Precinct station house late Thursday night in the middle rain showers.

A funeral is now being planned for James, possibly sometime this coming week after Labor Day.

Members of Glorious Church of God in Christ mourn after 62 year old James Swayne was shot and killed yesterday afternoon. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)