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Pastor of Long Beach’s oldest Black church attacked twice during service

Updated: May 17

Reverend Welton Pleasant II stands in the pulpit of Christ Second Baptist Church - photo by Jackie Rae

Built 116 years ago, Christ Second Baptist Church is Long Beach's oldest Black church. Rev. Welton Pleasant II has served as the church pastor for 15 years. During that time, he has been attacked twice by the same man during church service.

Long Beach Police arrested 27-year-old Andre Barnes on March 17 on suspicion of terrorizing and causing fear, assault with a deadly weapon, and refusal to leave the property upon request by the owner. The charges stem from an alleged attack on Pleasant during Sunday service.

Video surveillance shows Barnes walking down the church aisle, entering the pulpit, and heading straight for Pleasant with a butcher knife in hand.

"Fortunately, one of my preachers is a retired detective of LADP," Pleasant said. "He had to physically engage him to get the knife from him. Which, he really put his life on his line."

Christ second Baptist Church located at 1471 MLK Jr Ave. - photo by Jackie Rae

According to Pleasant, it was his second alarming confrontation with a man who has a history of mental illness. In June of 2019, as service drew to a close, Barnes entered the pulpit and began conversing with the pastor. Video surveillance shows several people were nearby, but no one seemed to notice Pleasant was in danger. He said when Barnes became agitated, a scuffle ensued, and the two men fell to the ground. Barnes was taken into custody by LBPD and released several hours later.

The incident was disappointing for Pleasant, as Barnes grew up in the church, and his grandmother had been an active member. Pleasant says he became more personally acquainted with Barnes after he expressed a desire to go into ministry.

The two men met to discuss Barnes' interest in becoming a pastor, but Pleasant says the meeting was cut short when Barnes became paranoid, fearing that people were chasing him. According to Pleasant, the church therapist intervened and advised Barnes that he should be evaluated and get help for his mental illness.

"His family, I don't think, really knew how to handle it, and he did not get the proper help," says Pleasant, noting that Barnes lost his parents at a young age and was raised by his aging grandmother.

Pleasant believes that because Barnes didn't get the help he needed, he directed his frustration at the pastor, whom he believed was blocking his path into ministry.

After the 2019 attack, church officials banned Barnes from returning until he could provide proof that he was seeking mental health care. Although he did not provide such evidence, Pleasant said in 2023, Barnes returned to Christ Second Baptist to apologize for the 2019 attack.

Soon after the apology, Pleasant became concerned by an encounter in a Downtown Long Beach restaurant, where he said Barnes silently stared at him. That was just weeks before the butcher knife attack.

Pleasant says the attacks point to a broader issue and highlight the lack of resources available for those who are struggling with mental illness. He believes the incident earlier this month could have been prevented if Barnes had received the necessary help in 2019. Instead, Barnes was left to his own devices and often lived on the street, according to Pleasant.

Pleasant attended the hearing on Friday, March 28, hoping to encourage the courts to intercede on Barnes' behalf so he is not left to live on the street without assistance. "Hopefully, that will be the prelude to getting him some real help," says the pastor, who is still greatly concerned for the safety of others. "If he can do this in a church, to me, he represents a serious menace to society as a whole."

Although the hearing for Barnes was postponed, Pleasant is thankful he and his congregation can feel a sense of safety on Easter Sunday.

Barnes is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, April 3.

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