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Liquor bottle mistaken for gun triggers strong law officer response at west Bradenton church

MANATEE -- A Bradenton man was detained for observation after numerous law enforcement officers, including the Manatee County Sheriff's Office SWAT team, surrounded a church in west Bradenton, according to Sheriff Brad Steube.

The 31-year-old man entered The Bridge Church at Palma Sola Bay, 4000 75th St. W., and wanted to talk to someone at 2 p.m. Wednesday. He first talked to a secretary and then to the pastor.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow said deputies received a call someone at the church was acting suspicious and erratic. Church members tried to counsel the man but then he said he felt like he wanted to hurt someone.

"When they heard that, they saw what they thought could be a weapon and they became alarmed and law enforcement got involved," Bristow said. "What they thought might be a gun was a liquor bottle."

Witnesses were able to leave the church, according to a report.

Deputies, who initially said the man would be charged with trespassing and burglary for stealing, was instead held for observation.

Bristow said the sheriff's office wasn't charging the man with burglary because he was given the food. No criminal charges will be filed against the man.

At 6:31 p.m., Steube said a man had been arrested after deputies entered the church at 5:51 p.m.

"We did not locate a gun. He said he didn't have a gun ... so we'll bring in one of the canines and do an article search," Steube said.

Despite earlier uncertainty, out of extreme caution the sheriff's office sent at least a couple dozen deputies, including a SWAT team, to the scene. Hovering overhead was a sheriff's office helicopter.

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.

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