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Fearless Buffalo nun thwarted thieves

"How dare you do this to God's property!"
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jan 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 17:35:06-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — A fearless Buffalo nun delivered an impromptu lesson in "thou shall not steal".

“So, I opened the door and saw a ladder — here's a ladder over here and I walked out and I looked up and said — 'get out of here. How dare you do this to God's property — this is his mission!’”, described Sister Mary Johnice, director, Response to Love Center. 

Sister Mary Johnice, director, Response to Love Center. 

Sister Mary Johnice woke up just before 7:30 Saturday morning to the sounds of someone on the roof.  

Photos were screenshots from this surveillance video that capture two men trying to steel gutters and downspouts off the roof of the east Buffalo building.   At approximately 3:00 into the video, you can watch Sister Johnice open the door to the Response to Love Center and pushes the ladder off the building.

One of the screen shots of the suspects.

But instead, they got an unexpected surprise. 

“And fume! When I took that ladder and knocked it down — I amazed myself when I see it now,” recalled Sister Johnice. 

Sister Mary Johnice, director, Response to Love Center, shows the ladder she kicked off the building.

Super hero's come in all shapes and sizes and this one wears a nun's habit.

“You were fearless taking that ladder away?” Buckley asked.  "I was fearless because my adrenaline was going when I saw it and I knew it was wrong —  you know — you could feel the evil in it,” replied Sister Johnice. 

“It was a situation that is Sister Johnice all the way. I mean that's what she does,” declared Mike Gilhooly, assistant director. 

Mike Gilhooly, assistant director. 

Gilhooly lives just blocks away and arrived quickly after learning Sister Johnice kicked the ladder over and both men fled on foot. 

“I put it the Facebook post — she's a tough cookie —  she is and that's what I love about her,” chucked Gilhooly. 

Response to Love Center post.

“When I knocked the ladder down, I heard them yell — ‘somebody's there — run!’ And one went one way and one went the other way, and I went through the building down to see where the fellow went,” recalled Sister Johnice. 

Gihooly posted a message with the photos of the suspects.

“We put it on Facebook immediately and we have a very good Facebook following and we've got an awful lot of response from people — it could be this guy — it could be this guy, but again it's up to the police to determine that,” remarked Gilhooly. 

Suspects caught on camera.

The Center could not initially release the video because it first was sent to Buffalo Police for an investigation.  

Both Gilhooly and Sister Johnice say they believe the thieves were possibly looking to steal copper on the roof.

“But it has to be somebody who's greedy — selfish — somebody who is very broken — I'm sure desperation did it,” responded Sister Johnice.  “You know it's only gutters — it's only pipes, but what if it's a life? But God does not want this to be a battlefield for people — a fearful place. I've been here since 1985 and it never happened. How dare they do this  — I work for God. It's his mission." 

The fenced area was where the suspect climbed.

“She's not naive. She knows what goes on in this neighborhood. She's been here so long,” replied Gilhooly. 

Sister Johnice says police arrived within a couple of minutes of her heroic move. 

Sister Mary Johnice explains how she stopped the thieves.

“I was afraid it would have hit Sister in the head. She's not trained in how to handle a ladder and do these sorts of things, but I think she couldn't have done anything better,” Gihooly remarked. 

I reached out to the spokesman for the Buffalo Police Department and was told police are "still looking into the matter".

But both Gilhooly and Sister Johnice says the reaction from the neighborhood and the community has been amazing.

A couple, who volunteers at Response to Love, brought Sister a beautiful bouquet of flowers for her bravery.

Volunteer couple brought Sister flowers

Sister Johnice tells me she's been wanting a ladder and is hoping to keep it. 

“But when I saw this one — I said thank you God — you sent us a gift, so we have a ladder now,” commented Sister Johnice. 

A  ladder Sister Johnice is now referring to as “Jacob's ladder” —  a religious reference known as a "stairway" or "bridge" to heaven.