Clifton Ukrainian Orthodox priest Oleh Zhownirovych accused of choking baby in Kansas

A Ukrainian Orthodox priest from Clifton is accused of trying to choke a baby in the Kansas City, Kansas, area.

Prosecutors say Oleh Zhownirovych, 54, tried to choke the 4-month-old baby while at a Wal-Mart in Overland Park, Kansas. He was charged with felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor battery.

Zhownirovych was a priest at the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Church in Clifton.

Police say Zhownirovych walked up to a women in the checkout aisle Wednesday and started to choke her baby without provocation. The mother screamed and Zhownirovych stopped, according to police.

Wal-Mart workers apparently restrained Zhownirovych until police arrived.

"We don't know if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or his mental state," says Overland Park Police Officer John Lacy.

The baby was not seriously hurt.

The Johnson County Kansas District Attorney said that Zhownirovych's first appearance in court was Wednesday.

It was not immediately known why Zhownirovych was in Kansas.

The vice president of the church association says that Zhownirovych never had any issues with children during his more than a decade-long tenure with the church. However, the association voted to remove Zhownirovych from his position about a year ago after they say he developed a drinking problem.

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