Man accused of sending Henry Co. church into lockdown appears in court

HENRY COUNTY, Tenn. — A man accused of forcing a church into lockdown on Sunday made his first appearance before a judge Tuesday on several felony charges.

Antonio RulfordAntonio Rulford appeared Tuesday morning in Henry County General Sessions Court after investigators say he and a juvenile led officials on a two-hour manhunt Sunday morning.

Officials say the Sunday morning chase started at Jones Chapel Church off of India Road after they received a call that a purse and a gun had been stolen from a car in the parking lot.

“The city police were checking another church, maybe a half a mile away, at TVCC, Tennessee Valley Community Church, and they actually spotted the vehicle in question, the black BMW,” said Capt. Damon Lowe with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.

Law enforcement made their way to the second church, Tennessee Valley Community Church, around 10 a.m. Sunday.

“Towards the end of the second service, we noticed police cars in the parking lot and apparently some young men who had been over at another church. They had broke into another car,” said Tennessee Valley Community Church Exec. Pastor Carlton Gerrell. “They showed up on our parking lot and were beginning to do the same or about to do the same, we think.”

Officials say they had the church go into lockdown for the next two hours while they searched a wooded area next to the church.

“We had them go on lockdown because we didn’t want the suspects to run inside the church and create a different kind of scenario,” Capt. Lowe said.

Church leaders say they were able to make the best of the scary situation and are grateful everyone is safe and secure.

“We have a security team in place,” Carlton said. “We have had one for years, and so we got to see them in action, and I would say 99 percent of the people took it very well and they said OK, and they felt safe and secure.”

Rulford is currently jailed without bond. He is charged with burglary, evading arrest, two counts of theft and other charges.

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