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2 Indians killed in US church shootout

By George Joseph
Last updated on: November 24, 2008 08:55 IST
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Two Indians were killed and another critically injured in a shoot out at the St Thomas Knanaya Church on Third Street in Clifton, Passaic County, New Jersey on Sunday.

Reshma (25), a nurse from Kaduthuruthy in Kerala, and Dennis John Mallusseril (23) succumbed to their wounds in the hospital. Reshma was shot in the head. The third victim -- Silvy Perincheril -- is in serious condition at the St Joseph's Hospital in Paterson.

The church shootout sent shockwaves across the country. It is believed that domestic problems between Reshma and her husband Saneesh Joseph (27) could be the reason behind the incident.

Joseph, who lives in Sacramento, California, is believed to have come to New Jersey driving his jeep. The police are looking for the jeep with California license plate number 5JHD200, in which he's believed to have escaped.

Perincheril is Reshma's aunt. Mallusseril, it is believed, came on the scene just to pacify Joseph.

Reshma arrived in US after their wedding only this January. Following problems, the couple went back to Kerala for a month. On returning to the US, domestic problems persisted and Reshma left Joseph and moved in with her aunt in New Jersey. There was a restraining order against Joseph in California.

Perincheril was the church's Sunday school director. 

Suja Alummoottil, 40, told local media that she was in the vestibule of the church with Perincheril and Reshma, as the service was winding down. They were discussing an essay contest when Joseph, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, walked in. He told them he had come to take his wife.

There was an argument after Perincheril told him not to make a commotion in the church.

Alummoottil said she heard a gun shot as she was walking into the church's nave to trace Perincheril's husband.

The people in the church ducked. Soon two more gunshots followed. There were about 200 congregants in the church, Thomas Jacob, a church member said. Joseph fled the scene before cops arrived.

The Knanaya Jacobite Church is part of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church under the Patriarch in Antioch and Catholicose in Kerala. Coincidentally, the shooting took place even as prayers were being said for the dead.

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George Joseph