Modesto Pastor Shot During Self-Defense Class

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MODESTO --

Pastor Tom Smith was taking a class on Dec. 5 when he was accidentally shot. Since that time, he has undergone surgery and has been recovering in a Modesto hospital.

It was supposed to be a class that would protect Smith, with the House Church in Modesto, from potential dangers.

FOX40 spoke with The House’s Senior Pastor Glen Berteau over the phone on Tuesday. Berteau said Smith attended a self-defense course taught by Phillip Rushing with Personal Protection Institute at Woodrow and McHenry avenues. The class ended with a very real, very dangerous accident.

“The person who had the gun, he was very, very broken over something like this happening,” Berteau said.

The class was held in the same building as a martial arts business. The owner there said the two companies are not affiliated. Smith’s friends said after the course was over and everything was put away, including a rubber gun, a student approached Rushing and asked a specific question about being attacked.

Most of the class had left except for Smith and some of his other friends and fellow parishioners. The Modesto Police Department said a role-playing scenario began, Rushing holstered his firearm, and for some reason, the gun went off.

The bullet struck the pastor in his right side just above his hip.

"He’s recuperating well, in a sense, as far as his condition improving every day,” Berteau said.

Smith has been in the hospital for the past 10 days, the shot missed his vital organs, Berteau said.

“From what he went through ... he’s doing well,” he said.

FOX40 News contacted Rushing for comment but has not heard back.

On his website, however, a message that read "Classes have been cancelled until further notice" was posted. Those who know the instructor said he’s torn about hurting Smith. The two men have been friends for years.

As for Smith, Berteau said his health is getting better and Berteau is not upset with Rushing for accidentally shooting him.

“But he doesn’t, nobody holds any animosity to anybody. It was an accident, so no one is angry. No one’s upset,” Berteau said.

He added it will be a while before Smith will be back with the church because his recovery is expected to take months.

The Stanislaus District Attorney’s office has not charged Rushing with a crime. The Modesto Police Department said they’re consulting with the DA’s office about what the next step will be.