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Distraught immigrant holds bishop for 9 hours

NCR Staff
San Antonio

A Salvadoran citizen, distraught at the prospect of deportation and said to be wielding a hand grenade, took San Antonio Archbishop Patrick Flores captive June 28, holding the prelate for nine hours in his chancery office before surrendering to police.

The man, identified as Nelson Antonio Escolero, a 25-year resident of San Antonio, told police he was despondent at the prospect of being deported for driving with a suspended license.

Through the day and into early evening, local radio and television, broadcasting live, kept the city’s attention focused on the archbishop’s plight. People gathered to pray for Flores in local churches as they waited for news.

At the beginning of an impromptu 7 p.m. Mass at San Fernando Cathedral in downtown San Antonio, intended as a prayer for the captive archbishop, Jesuit Fr. James Empereur told worshipers that he had just received word Flores had been released. The church burst into cheers and applause. “We quickly needed to change the mood of the Mass,” Empereur said.

Escolero was charged with two counts of aggravated kidnapping. Police later determined that the “hand grenade-type device” the hostage taker had with him was a hoax, incapable of exploding.

National Catholic Reporter, July 14, 2000