A 18-year-old thief sparked a tense two-hour standoff with police when he launched a New Year’s Day raid on the borough’s only Coptic Orthodox Church — hours after a Coptic church bombing in Egypt put the NYPD on a terror alert.
Michael Agivi, a former congregant of the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George in Dyker Heights, picked the wrong day to break into the sacred ground at the corner of 11th Avenue and 67th Street: Hours before his 11 am break-in, terrorists bombed a Coptic Church in Egypt, killing 21 congregants.
That explains why a mini-army of cops, including officers in a helicopter, a team of armored cops sporting automatic weapons and a K-9 unit, converged on the church after a worshipper called in a burglary in progress.
“[The Egyptian terrorist attack] happened,” said Father Luke Awad. “So the police had an idea that something could happen here.”
Police believe that Agivi had entered the church by forcing open a side gate to get into the back yard, then smashing a back bathroom window.
After receiving the robbery tip, cops converged and cordoned off the area, entering the church with guns drawn. Agivi was found cowering under a desk in the basement during the painstaking search, cops said.
Agivi was also allegedly caught on a video surveillance camera pilfering the church’s collection boxes — probably knowing they’d be stuffed with money donated during a marathon 12-hour New Year’s Eve service that ended at 7:30 am that morning.
When he was taken out in handcuffs, Agivi denied taking anything, although Awad estimates that the teen pilfered several thousand dollars in donations.
But more shocking to Awad was that a former congregant would apparently have looted the 38-year-old old church that caters to Egyptian Christians throughout the five boroughs.
“I honestly didn’t recognize his face when they put him in the car because I hadn’t seen him in awhile,” Award said. “But when another congregant told me who he was, my heart just dropped.”
Cops charged Agivi with burglary. He had yet to be arraigned by late Monday and attempts to reach his attorney were unsuccessful.
Inspector Eric Rodriguez, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, said his officers increased patrols around the Coptic house of worship after the terrorist attack in Egypt, but the heavily armed cops responding to the burglary — members of the NYPD Emergency Services Unit — are always called in to root out criminals who hide inside buildings and refuse to surrender.
“It’s regular procedure,” he explained.