Gun-carrying Staten Island pastor: ‘They can be a life-saver’

carlo.jpgStaten Island Advance – by Ryan Lavis

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.  — When the Rev. John Rocco Carlo mounts to the pulpit of the Christian Pentecostal Church in Concord, he’s armed with God’s word — and his Beretta .25 pistol.

As a transit cop with the NYPD, he learned fast that his “persuader” could be the difference between life and death on some of the toughest beats in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“You meet the devil every day as a cop,” said the lawman-turned-pastor. “The Bible talks about being gentle as a dove but wise as a serpent. You need both.”

Shot at countless times and even stabbed, his closest brush with death occurred around 1970 in the subway station at Delancey and Essex streets in Manhattan.

Officer Carlo and his partner were writing summonses for two men they had watched jump a turnstile. As he scribbled on his pad, Carlo heard a commotion and looked up to see his partner on the floor, bleeding from the eye. Then the other bad guy clocked Carlo.

As they tussled, the man grabbed a pipe. Carlo pushed him up against a telephone booth and cocked his gun at the offender’s nose. “I said, ‘I’m going to kill [you]. Drop that thing.'”

He complied, but by the time Carlo had cuffed the two, the number of onlookers had swelled to about 150, and they weren’t happy, Carlo recalled.

“They’re all yelling, ‘Let’s kill these cops.'”

Unable to radio for backup, he took the weapon from his injured partner and pointed the two guns at the crowd. “I said, ‘OK. You people want to die? Before we die, 12 of you are going to die. There’s a line on the ground. Cross that line and I’m going to shoot you.’

“I would have done it. It was either them or me.”

Luckily, backup arrived before Carlo had to start shooting.

He turned in his badge two decades ago, but Rev. Carlo keeps his loaded weapon on his back hip, concealed beneath his clerical robes, and he encourages his ushers, many of whom are former cops, to carry as well.

He tempers his enthusiasm: “I don’t like guns. I’m not in favor of guns. I think they’re dangerous, but with the appropriate training, they can be a lifesaver.”

Rev. Carlo supports many of the gun reform laws currently being proposed to Congress, especially one that calls for a ban on automatic weapons. “There is no reason why anyone other than the military or special police units should use those weapons,” he said.

Drawing several parallels between his 28-year career as a cop and his duties as a minister, Rev. Carlo said he wouldn’t be much of preacher now if not for his experiences as a police officer. He dealt with people from all walks of life, and learned how to talk people down before they went over the edge.

“I would suggest anyone going into the ministry become a cop first,” he said. “A lot of people come into the ministry and think it’s all about preaching. But it’s not. It’s about people and their problems.”

Still, he said that being a minister, while less dangerous, is more demanding.

“In police work, you work a shift. But in the ministry, you’re available 24/7. There’s no off-duty.”

Despite his run-ins with violence, Rev. Carlo said he believes folks are mostly good. Whether it’s offering advice to one of his nearly thousand parishioners, or continuing to use his church facilities as a supply hub for Hurricane Sandy victims, he said there’s only a small percentage of society that finds itself on the wrong side of the law.

And while Rev. Carlo has never had to use his concealed weapon during a service, he said that he wouldn’t hesitate to do so if it meant saving lives.

A few years ago, he said, a stranger walked into Christian Pentecostal and asked him what he would do if an armed someone started shooting members of the congregation. Rev. Carlo looked the man dead in the eye and replied, “I’d kill him.”

2 thoughts on “Gun-carrying Staten Island pastor: ‘They can be a life-saver’

  1. “ ‘They’re all yelling, ‘Let’s kill these cops.’ ”

    I miss the seventies. People knew who the enemy was before the television worked so efficiently to brainwash them. Now the cops are four times as brutal and corrupt, but the population thinks they’re “heroes.”

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