Lyon man questioned by police over Greek priest shooting

U.S. & World

Police officers search for clues after a priest was shot Saturday Oct.31, 2020 in the city of Lyon, central France. A Greek Orthodox priest was shot while he was closing his church in the French city of Lyon, and authorities locked down part of the city to hunt for the assailant. The priest, a Greek citizen, is in a local hospital with life-threatening injuries after being shot twice in the abdomen. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

GENEVA (AP) — A Greek Orthodox parishioner who was recently caught on video scuffling with a Lyon priest who was shot outside his church and hospitalized over the weekend says local police raided his home on Monday.

The parishioner, Jean-Michel Dhimoila, said police collected documents at his home and took him in for questioning, though not as a suspect. He was later released.

Dhimoila called an Associated Press reporter from a police station in southern Lyon after being taken to a police station about the Saturday shooting of Rev. Nikolaos Kakavelakis with a hunting rifle as he left a door at his church, prompting a manhunt after the assailant who fled the scene.

The priest, a Greek citizen, is in a local hospital in critical condition after being shot twice in the abdomen, a police official said.

The shooting came amid tensions within the local Greek Orthodox community. It also raised concerns in a country that has been on edge two days after a knife attack by an Islamic extremist in the southern city of Nice left three people dead — prompting government officials to call for enhanced security at religious sites across the country.

The motive for the shooting remains unclear. Anti-terrorism prosecutors aren’t investigating the case, and the Lyon prosecutor opened an attempted murder investigation.

Kakavelakis had finished his tenure about a month ago, and had been scheduled to return soon to Greece after his time working at the Lyon church, community leaders have said.

Dhimoila confirmed he had been involved in a scuffle caught on video two years ago in which he was seen being expelled from a church door, then trying to reenter as the priest kicked at him and slammed the door shut.

From a police station in southern Lyon, Dhimoila said he had “no idea” who was behind the shooting, but knew a lot about the Greek Orthodox community in Lyon.

Dhimoila said police who entered his home at around 8 a.m. on Monday scooped up the documentation he had assembled about Kakavelakis.

On Sunday, police released an initial suspect and widened a search for the gunman who critically wounded the priest as he closed the door to his official residence at the church.

Dhimoila, who lived as a former monk for eight years, has run a blog whose title in French translates as “Friends of the Hellenic community of Lyon.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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