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Santeria Ritual Turns Violent

October 23, 1997| Associated Press

MIAMI — Strangers who burst into a funeral chapel before dawn Wednesday ejected three women who were mourning a relative, then performed Santeria rituals and started a gunfight among themselves, police said.

One man was in serious condition after surgery for a gunshot wound to the chest.

There were about 10 men in the group that burst into the funeral home in Little Havana. Police would not identify the dead man.

"These men started performing Santeria acts to the body of the deceased," said police Lt. Bill Schwartz. "They put some ash in the sign of a cross on his forehead, they took a bottle of rum and stuck it in his right hand; they lit candles, then they ordered the family members out."

Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion that melds Catholic saints and rituals with animal sacrifices, hexes and blessings.

Schwartz was unable to say if the men had mistaken the dead man for someone they knew, but said they may have been drinking. He said they were "playing ignorant" and had not been charged with any crime.

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