Noemi Montoya was praying at her Monroe church on New Year's Eve when a masked man with a gun was suddenly standing there.
"He had his face covered, and he had a rifle," Montoya said. "I thought he was going to shoot all of us."
She was at a 9 p.m. New Year's Eve service at Iglesias De Dios on Engleside Street in Monroe. About 20 people were inside the small Hispanic church, including several young children.
"We were just so scared. He just pointed the gun at us," Montoya said.
Oddly, the robber never said a word. That's surprising to Monroe police, who aren't sure why the gunman never spoke.
"We don't know if he might have thought his voice may be recognized by one of the victims," said sergeant mike smith.
"Church is a place you're supposed to feel safe," he said.
The gunman walked around, pointing the gun at five women in the room who watched as he collected their purses. Victims said when he left they went to find their husbands, and other men who were in another room of the church. By then, the robber was gone.
April Threatt, a neighbor, saw the victims outside after the robbery, and saw how afraid they were.
"I saw the women come outside, and you could tell by looking at them, they were upset, and scared," she said.
Monroe police are looking for the suspect, but have little to go on. One issue is conflicting descriptions of the robber.
He was wearing a black mask, black jacket, red shirt and khaki pants. However, some victims said he was white and others thought he was black.
There is no surveillance video at the church, and a police dog was not available to track the suspect.
Several victims told Channel 9 they did see a strange man who looked like the suspect, walking around the church before the service started.
It's not clear if it's the same man.
Montoya said the moment the masked gunman walked in she thought of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and thought the worst was about to happen.
"I thought he'd shoot some of us, and start with the kids, because of what happened in Connecticut with those kids," she said.
No one was hurt, but the robber got away with at least five purses containing money, keys, ID and other belongings.
If you have any information that can help Monroe police, call Union County Crime Stoppers at 704-283-5600.