Hundreds evacuated at Newtown Catholic church - the town's center of memorials and mourning - after BOMB THREAT hours before Obama visit
- Noon mass was being held at the St Rose of Lima when hundreds of people inside were evacuated due to a called-in threat
- Heavily-armed Connecticut state troopers were seen entering church and doing room-by-room search of religious education facility nearby
- 'All clear' was issued at about 1:15pm
- President Obama was due to attend memorial service at Newtown High School tonight
By JAMES NYE IN NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT and THOMAS DURANTE
PUBLISHED: 17:52, 16 December 2012 | UPDATED: 19:59, 16 December 2012
The church close to where President Obama is due to attend a memorial service for the victims of the Newtown school massacre was evacuated during noon mass today after St Rose of Lima received a bomb threat.
Police and heavily armed Connecticut state troopers hurriedly entered the Catholic church that has become a center of grieving since the deaths of 20 children and six adults at the nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In a community already on edge following the horrific tragedy on Friday, tensions were raised at the sight of nearly a dozen camouflage-clad SWAT team members carrying assault weapons who the church and a nearby educational center.
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Response: A SWAT team prepares to enter St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church
Lookout: A heavily-armed state trooper prepares to enter a religious center adjacent to the church
Guns blazing: A Newtown police officer stands behind a tree with his gun drawn during the bomb threat investigation
With their guns drawn, police shouted to members of the public to stand back and take cover while they secured the building.
After keeping the public and media at bay for more than an hour, the police seemed to relax their posture and at around 1.30pm they were allowing people to lay flowers an candles at a makeshift memorial.
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.
'Word filtered back through the pews that there had been a threat made and we had to get into our cars and evacuate,' she said.
Threat: A police officer keeps a hand on his gun as the unspecified threat at St Rose of Lima Church in Newtown
Possible threat: Heavily-armed state troopers were seen entering the church, as well as an educational center nearby
Paying their respects: Candles and makeshift memorials have been placed on the grounds of the church, pictured in the background, since the school shooting on Friday
By candlelight: The church was the scene of a vigil, where mourners lit candles to honor the children and teachers who had lost their lives in the school shooting
'Everybody was just rushing out. People just didn't know what do.'
President Obama will be at the church at 7pm for a memorial service for the 20 first graders and six adults killed in Friday's gun rampage at the elementary school by Adam Lanza, who also killed himself and his mother.
The church has been a source of solace for many in the small town still coming to grips with Friday's tragedy.
It was the scene of an emotional candlelight vigil on Friday night, and a place where mourners have continuously stopped to reflect and pray.
Remembering: The church has been a source of solace for many in the small town still coming to grips with Friday's tragedy
Place of mourning: Newtown residents flocked to the church on Friday night for a candlelight vigil held hours after the massacre
Police officers have also been seen at the church, praying and paying their respects to the lives that were lost
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2249056/Newtown-catholic-church-EVACUATED-threat-noon-mass.html#ixzz2FFTyA9WE
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