Voicemail received by Westminster church sounded like ‘pocket dial,’ not gunfire, police say

After reviewing a voicemail placed with the Church of the Ascension, Westminster police have found that there was likely no gunfire in the message, as previously suggested by the church pastor, and the department is not investigating further.

Sgt. Stephen Blackwell, who is a firearms instructor and a veteran, heard the voicemail yesterday when he met with the Rev. Samuel Nsengiyumva for a followup interview, Blackwell said.


Police were called to church Saturday after the pastor listened to a voicemail on the church phone that sounded like “automatic gunfire,” Nsengiyumva said Monday. Sunday services and children’s activities for Monday and Tuesday were canceled, according to Nsengiyumva.

“After listening to the voicemail, it appeared it may have been a pocket dial. There was a faint noise in the background. It didn’t sound like anything," Blackwell said.

Blackwell said he has been a firearms instructor for nearly 10 years and served in the Air Force for six years.

“I have a good bit of experience with firearms,” Blackwell said.

Nsengiyumva wrote in an email Wednesday that the source and nature of the voicemail have not been determined.

“The good news is that law-enforcement has informed us that there seems to be no imminent threat to our staff, members, and guests. We have been advised to pay attention and report any suspicious activity. Meanwhile we are exploring a variety of ways to enhance our security procedures,” Nsengiyumva wrote.

Blackwell said the voicemail was several minutes long. The callback number was blocked, Nsengiyumva and police said.

“It was hard to even hear," Blackwell said. “I can’t distinguish what kind of noise that is.

“At this point there’s been no crime committed and there was nothing further to investigate."

Deputy Chief Pete D’Antuano said there would be an increased police presence in the area during church service, at the request of the church.