Armed con­gre­gants kill gun­man who shot 2 at Texas church

The Saline Courier - - NEWS - As­so­ci­ated Press

WHITE SET­TLE­MENT, Texas — A gun­man who killed two peo­ple dur­ing a Texas church ser­vice was fa­tally shot within sec­onds by armed con­gre­gants, said Texas of­fi­cials, who hailed the state’s gun laws that al­low weapons in places of wor­ship.

More than 240 parish­ioners were in the West Free­way Church in the Fort Worth area town of White Set­tle­ment at the time of the shoot­ing on Sun­day, author­i­ties said.

Par­ish­ioner Is­abel Arre­ola told the Star-tele­gram that she sat near the gun­man and that she’d never seen him be­fore Sun­day’s ser­vice. She said he ap­peared to be wear­ing a dis­guise, per­haps a fake beard, and that he made her un­com­fort­able.

She said the man stood up, pulled a shot­gun from his cloth­ing, opened fire and was quickly shot by two con­gre­gants who were part of a vol­un­teer se­cu­rity team.

“I was so sur­prised be­cause I did not know that so many in the church were armed,” she said.

Tif­fany Wal­lace told Dal­las TV sta­tion KXAS that her fa­ther, An­ton “Tony” Wal­lace, was one of the vic­tims killed in the at­tack. She said her fa­ther was a dea­con at the church and had just passed out com­mu­nion when the gun­man ap­proached him.

“I ran to­ward my dad and the last thing I re­mem­ber is him ask­ing for oxy­gen and I was just hold­ing him, telling him I loved him and that he was go­ing to make it,” Wal­lace said.

Wal­lace said her fa­ther was rushed to a hospi­tal but he did not sur­vive.

“You just won­der why? How can some­one so evil, the devil, step into the church and do this,” she said.

At a press con­fer­ence

Sun­day night, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Pa­trick said the gun­man was killed within six sec­onds of open­ing fire. Pa­trick hailed the state’s gun laws, in­clud­ing a mea­sure en­acted ear­lier this year that al­lowed li­censed guns in places of wor­ship, un­less the fa­cil­ity bans them.

“Two of the parish­ioners who were vol­un­teers of the se­cu­rity force drew their weapons and took out the killer im­me­di­ately, sav­ing un­told num­ber of lives,” Pa­trick said.

Britt Farmer, se­nior min­is­ter of the church, said, “We lost two great men to­day, but it could have been a lot worse.”

Of­fi­cials have not re­leased the names of the vic­tims or the gun­man. FBI Spe­cial Agent in Charge Matthew Desarno said they’re work­ing to iden­tify the gun­man’s mo­tive, adding that he is “rel­a­tively tran­sient” but had roots in the area.

Desarno also said the gun­man had been ar­rested mul­ti­ple times in the past but de­clined to give de­tails.

An el­der at the church told the New York Times that one of those killed was a se­cu­rity guard who re­sponded to the shooter, call­ing him a dear friend.

“He was try­ing to do what he needed to do to pro­tect the rest of us,” said the el­der, Mike Tinius.

“It’s ex­tremely up­set­ting to see any­one com­mit­ting vi­o­lence,” he said.

Tinius said he didn’t know the gun­man and that the shoot­ing ap­peared to be ran­dom.

A wo­man who an­swered the phone at the West Free­way Church of Christ told the AP she could not an­swer any ques­tions and that she was told to di­rect in­quiries to author­i­ties.

In a livestream of the church ser­vice, the gun­man can be seen get­ting up from a pew and talk­ing to some­one at the back of the church be­fore pulling out a gun and open­ing fire. Parish­ioners can then be heard scream­ing and seen duck­ing un­der pews or run­ning as papers fly to the floor.

Two peo­ple with mi­nor in­juries that were sus­tained while duck­ing for cover were treated at the scene, Meds­tar Mo­bile Health­care spokes­woman Macara Trusty said.

Gov. Greg Ab­bott asked the state to pray for the vic­tims, their loved ones and the com­mu­nity of White Set­tle­ment, about 8 miles (12 kilo­me­ters) west of Fort Worth.

“Places of wor­ship are meant to be sacred, and I am grate­ful for the church mem­bers who acted quickly to take down the shooter and help pre­vent fur­ther loss of life,” Ab­bott said in a tweeted state­ment.

It is not the first deadly shoot­ing to take place at a church in Texas. In Novem­ber 2017, Devin Pa­trick Kel­ley opened fire on the con­gre­ga­tion at a church in Suther­land Springs, killing more than two dozen wor­ship­pers, be­fore tak­ing his own life. And in 1999, a gun­man killed seven peo­ple in Wedg­wood Bap­tist Church in Fort Worth be­fore det­o­nat­ing an ex­plo­sive de­vice and killing him­self.

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