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Hero who tackled Pennsylvania church gunman breaks silence: 'My pastor's life was in danger'

The horrifying scene made national headlines — an armed man walking up to the front of a church and aiming a gun at the pastor in the middle of his Sunday sermon.

He pulled the trigger. The pastor flinched and dove behind the pulpit. Witnesses heard a click, and then a miracle. The gun didn’t fire.

Deacon Clarence McCallister, who was operating a camera that recorded the entire ordeal on video, sprang into action, jumping over a railing to tackle the gunman before he had a chance to take another shot.

“I heard it click, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, thank God that gun jammed,’” McCallister, the hero of Jesus’ Dwelling Place Church in North Braddock, Pennsylvania, told Fox News Digital.

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He was looking through the camera’s viewfinder when he saw a gun pop up, aimed at the face of the Rev. Glenn Germany.

“He ducked down, and the guy’s going after him,” McCallister said. “That’s when I leaped up out of that chair and went after the guy. I put his arms to his sides so he couldn’t move, turned him around and sat him down.”

Shocking video of the ordeal shows Germany re-emerging from behind the pulpit and helping McCallister disarm the suspect, who police later identified as Bernard Polite, 26.

“My pastor’s life was in danger. I had to do something.”

— Clarence McCallister, who tackled gunman

McCallister took control of the handgun as Germany sat with the disarmed suspect near the front of the church.

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A churchgoer holds the gunman's arms back

“Call the police, somebody,” McCallister can be heard saying, wiping sweat from his brow with his other hand.

By day, McCallister is a heavy equipment specialist for the city of Pittsburgh. He said he’s already returned to work and is taking things “one day at a time.”

Pennsylvania State Police arrested Polite at the church, about 10 miles outside Pittsburgh. Allegheny County police also allegedly found a dead body in a home nearby, where public records show Polite has relatives. They are conducting a homicide investigation.

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Churchgoers tackle and disarm gunman

Anyone with information is asked to call the tip line at 1-833-ALL-TIPS.

According to witnesses and police documents, Polite displayed signs of mental illness.

“He was in the church for a while,” McCallister said. “He could have killed anybody, but the voice that he heard told him to kill the pastor.”

He claimed he had been possessed by spirits, and he sat smiling as he was being restrained.

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Clarence McCallister aftermath

“Mental illness is serious,” McCallister said. “This is something that needs to be taken seriously, and we need to do our best to recognize it.”

Both McCallister and Germany told Fox News Digital they had never seen the suspect before Sunday. Public records show he has ties to New Jersey.

“I’ve never seen him before in the church, and I’ve never seen him before in public,” McCallister said.

Polite was being held without bail at the Allegheny County Jail on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person. He’s due back in court May 13.

Germany told Fox News Digital Monday he was grateful to be alive and in “excellent” spirits.

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