On Sunday morning, Dec. 29, 2019, a gunman opened fire in a Texas church leaving two dead. The shooter in White Settlement, Texas, used a shotgun on parishioners of the church before a member of the church’s volunteer security team fatally shot him, according to authorities.
There were 250 people inside the West Freeway Church when the gunman opened fire before communion, stated the minister of the church Jack Cummings.
According to Cummings, the gunman was “acting suspiciously” before the shooting began and his behavior drew the attention of the security team. The volunteer security team has been a part of the church for 10 years and is made up of members of the church congregation who are licensed to carry firearms and practice with a firearm on a regular basis.
Cummings stated, “They saved a lot of lives today. Because this thing would have been a massacre otherwise.”
A member of the volunteer security team was killed in the attack.
An elder of the church, Mike Tinius said he knew that victim for over 20 years. “He was trying to do what needed to do to protect the rest of us. It’s extremely upsetting to see anyone committing violence,” Tinius said.
Authorities reported that the shooting lasted six seconds and was captured on video because the church posts its services online.
In the video, the gunman can be seen standing up during a quiet moment. He briefly speaks with someone standing against the wall and then begins to fire his shotgun. Members of the congregation were seen crouching down in their pews. There is a third loud bang followed by the gunman slumping to the ground. People are screaming throughout the encounter.
“He was immediately hit by one of our marksmen. The next thing I know, he was lying on the floor,” reported Cummings.
The authorities have released the names of the two parishioners who were killed by the gunman. The FBI special agent in charge of Dallas described the shooter as a “transient person with roots in the area.” Agent Matthew J. DeSarno stated the investigation into a motive was continuing.
The shooter had a previous arrest record but he was not on a watch list. DeSarno declined to elaborate on the nature of the shooter’s previous arrests. At this time, it is unclear if there was a connection between the shooter and the church or if the church was a target.
Senior minister Britt Farmer spoke at an evening news conference backed by a row of law enforcement officers and the lieutenant governor of Texas. While speaking, Farmer indirectly expressed support for the Second Amendment.
“We lost two great men today. It could have been a lot worse. I’m thankful that our government has allowed us the opportunity to protect ourselves,” Farmer stated.
In September, a Texas bill went into effect that allows licensed gun owners to carry their weapons into places of worship.
Cummings stated that the church had a security team because “people fo into schools and shoot people. We got a history in this nation of people doing this.”
In recent years, houses of worship have been attacked several times. This includes shootings that took place in synagogues in Poway, California, and Pittsburgh. On Saturday night, a man in Monsey, New York, stormed into the home of a Hasidic rabbi with a knife, stabbing and wounding five people who were celebrating Hanukkah.
Texas churches have also experienced violence. In 1999, a shooter killed seven people and then himself at a Fort Worth Baptist church. In 2017, a gunman with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle opened fire at a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs. Twenty-six people were killed.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas released a statement about Sunday’s shooting. “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.”
When authorities received reports of shots fired, off-duty officers down the street responded quickly and discovered an active shooting, stated Mike Drivdahl, who is a spokesperson for the Fort Worth Fire Department.
Hours after the attack, police cruisers surrounded the church and a helicopter hovered overhead while onlookers leaned over the yellow tape from a nearby waffle house. Officers brought in cases of bottled water as agents huddled in conversation. The Salvation Army provided coffee from a truck.
Congregant John Richardson said he had taken his wife out of her wheelchair and put her on the ground before getting on top of her after he heard the initial gunfire. When Richardson looked up, he said he saw several members of the security team had their guns drawn.
“My heart goes out to his family. I don’t have any hate for this person,” Richardson was speaking about Sunday morning’s shooter.
Last week, members of the congregation filled the wooden pews and sang worship songs together, according to the video. Children ran to the platform to talk about why they were excited for Christmas, and a minister spoke about the benefits of pruning parts of life that are no longer bearing fruit. That service was concluded on a note of accepting and giving love to others.
The following week’s service ended in gunfire.
“We like to say we’re a place your family can call home. Today our home was invaded by evil,” stated Farmer.
By Jeanette Vietti
The New York Times: Shooting at Texas Church Leaves 2 Parishioners Dead, Officials Say
Wall Street Journal: Texas Shooting Leaves Two Churchgoers Dead, Gunman Dead
KIRO Seattle: Texas church shooting: 2 worshipers dead; shooter killed by armed parishioners
Image Courtesy of Panna Maria Karnes’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License