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.
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.