NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The church near the high school where President Barack Obama is supposed to attend a memorial service tonight was evacuated during the noon mass today for an unspecified threat.
Police officers and officers wearing fatigues and riot gear entered Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church after those attending the noon mass evacuated.
Brian Wallace, director of communications for the Diocese of Bridgeport, said he didn't know whether the threatening call went to police or the church and didn't know the specific nature of the threat.
"It was a call credible enough that police thought they had to be investigating," he said. Officials also checked a school and rectory building but found nothing.
By 1:30 p.m., officials were allowing visitors to leave items at a makeshift memorial near the church.
Evelyn Leon, 17, of Waterbury, 20 miles east of Newtown, said she was sitting in the back of the church with her family when word came to leave the church.
"Everybody was just rushing out," she said. "People just didn't know what do."
She said she attends Wilby High School and wanted to come to the mass after Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School
"I was in school when this happened and I was just thinking about everybody, all the children," she said. "I wanted to come here."
Eight officers wearing fatigues and helmets and carrying shields entered the church after everyone evacuated.
"This is an enormously trying time," Mr. Wallace said. "Everyone knows somebody who has been affected by this."
The church's pastor, Msgr. Robert C. Weiss, interrupted the homily being given by another priest to say there had been a threat. Mr. Wallace said he didn't know whether any parents of kids killed at Sandy Hook were at the services.
The church has been open 24 hours a day since the shooting, but now will be closed until Monday morning.
"This has been a place of refuge where the community can collectively express its grief and unity," Mr. Wallace said. "The priority now is working with the people who have lost children."
Mr. Wallace said eight children who were killed were members of the church and eight funerals are being scheduled.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to attend a 7 p.m. memorial service at the high school for the 20 first-graders and six adults killed in Friday's rampage by Adam Lanza, 20, who also killed his mother and himself.
Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published December 16, 2012 6:30 PM