A woman who walked into a church service in Clairemont on Easter Sunday and allegedly made violent threats while carrying a gun and her 10-month-old baby was charged Wednesday with nine felony and misdemeanor counts.
Anna Conkey, 31, is accused of bringing an unloaded gun into Easter Sunday services at the Mt. Everest Academy, which is leased by the non-denominational Church Tsidkenu. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Dispatchers received a call at 12:02 p.m. Sunday from a person reporting the armed woman at an auditorium on the campus grounds, according to San Diego Police Lt. Shawn Takeuchi.
Conkey allegedly walked onto the stage during the service and “made threats that she was going to blow up the church” while waving a handgun around, the lieutenant said.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Greco said that before the service, she contacted San Diego police and a former employer and reported that a woman with a gun was going to “blow up the foundation of the church.” She then walked into the service and told the entire congregation that they were going to die, Greco alleged.
Before police arrived, churchgoers were able to disarm her, but as bystanders were handing the pistol to the officers, Conkey lunged forward to grab the gun without success and was restrained by multiple police officers, Greco said.
In light of the bomb threat, police used bomb-sniffing dogs to conduct a sweep of the area where the church services were being held, as well as Conkey’s car, the prosecutor said. No explosives were found, but ammunition matching the gun — which was registered to her — was located at her home, authorities said.
Conkey brought her youngest child with her to the church service, and officers later located her 5-year-old daughter, Takeuchi said, adding that both children were found to be healthy and unhurt.
He did not disclose where the 5-year-old was found.
The children were taken into protective custody after their mother’s arrest, but Greco said they have since been released into the custody of family members.
He said protective orders were filed Wednesday to prevent Conkey from coming into contact with either child, the church’s pastor and the church itself.
Speaking to a potential motive, the prosecutor said, “It appears her actions are tied to some of her interpretations of her religious beliefs,” but he did not elaborate.
Defense attorney Stephen Cline said Conkey’s family and friends have stated that the entire incident was “highly out of character.”
The defendant’s mental health will likely play a role in future court proceedings, but attorneys stated it was too early to say to what degree.
Greco said, “It’s clear that mental issues will play a role in this case. In terms of the extent and the scope, at this point, it is speculative to say.”
Conkey, who’s being held in lieu of $1 million bail, faces more than 23 years in state prison if convicted of child cruelty, making criminal threats, possession of a firearm in a school zone, and a misdemeanor count of interfering with a religious service.
— City News Service