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Lyon Man Questioned by Police Over Greek Priest Shooting

November 2, 2020

GENEVA — A Greek Orthodox parishioner who was recently caught on video scuffling with a Lyon priest who was shot outside his church and hospitalized over the weekend says local police raided his home on Monday.

The parishioner, Jean-Michel Dhimoila, said police collected documents at his home and took him in for questioning, though not as a suspect. He was later released.

Dhimoila called an Associated Press reporter from a police station in southern Lyon after being taken to a police station about the Saturday shooting of Rev. Nikolaos Kakavelakis with a hunting rifle as he left a door at his church, prompting a manhunt after the assailant who fled the scene.

The priest, a Greek citizen, is in a local hospital in critical condition after being shot twice in the abdomen, a police official said.

The shooting came amid tensions within the local Greek Orthodox community. It also raised concerns in a country that has been on edge two days after a knife attack by an Islamic extremist in the southern city of Nice left three people dead — prompting government officials to call for enhanced security at religious sites across the country. 

The motive for the shooting remains unclear. Anti-terrorism prosecutors aren't investigating the case, and the Lyon prosecutor opened an attempted murder investigation.

Kakavelakis had finished his tenure about a month ago, and had been scheduled to return soon to Greece after his time working at the Lyon church, community leaders have said. 

Dhimoila confirmed he had been involved in a scuffle caught on video two years ago in which he was seen being expelled from a church door, then trying to reenter as the priest kicked at him and slammed the door shut. 

From a police station in southern Lyon, Dhimoila said he had "no idea" who was behind the shooting, but knew a lot about the Greek Orthodox community in Lyon. 

Dhimoila said police who entered his home at around 8 a.m. on Monday scooped up the documentation he had assembled about Kakavelakis. 

On Sunday, police released an initial suspect and widened a search for the gunman who critically wounded the priest as he closed the door to his official residence at the church. 

Dhimoila, who lived as a former monk for eight years, has run a blog whose title in French translates as "Friends of the Hellenic community of Lyon." 

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