Church members acted quickly to take down the gunman who opened fire during a Sunday morning service at a Texas church.
The gunman, who was identified Monday as Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43, of River Oaks, fatally shot two people at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement before two members of the congregation’s security team sprung into action and returned fire, killing the shooter, according to authorities.
Authorities have offered no motive for Kinnunen’s attack.
Anton Wallace, 64, of Fort Worth and Richard White, 67 of River Oaks were identified as the two victims, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
How shooting unfolded
The shooting appeared to happen during communion.
In a livestream of the service, obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 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.
A man was standing toward the back of the sanctuary holding a tray when the gunman got up from a nearby pew, walked toward the man and appeared to say something to him.
The gunman then backed up, pulled out a long gun and fired a shot toward a man who was seated nearby, had stood up and appeared to be reaching for something in his rear waistband. The gunman then fired a shot toward the man holding the tray.
A man in the back then pointed a handgun at the gunman and fired. The gunman fell, and at least three or four more people armed with handguns walked toward the gunman.
The gunman was being watched by members of the church security team because of his appearance, said Mike Tinius, a church elder. Tinius would not elaborate what it was about the gunman’s appearance that attracted the attention of the church security personnel.
“By the sequence of events it should be assumed that he came in with an idea,” Tinius said.
The gunfire came without warning, church members said.
Some said they had never seen the gunman before and could not think of a motive.
Isabel Arreola, 38, said the gunman sat 2 feet behind her and her 7-year-old daughter.
She said the man appeared to be wearing a disguise — his beard and the hair on his head looked fake, and he made her uncomfortable, Arreola said. She noticed him from the moment that he sat down.
Arreola said she could tell that one of the members of the security team was concerned about the shooter because he sat in the back right near him.
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. “They saved us. Unfortunately, two men lost their lives while they were doing so.”
Arreola said she couldn’t concentrate when the man was sitting behind her. She and her husband decided they would move to the other side of the church after communion, Arreola said.
“I should have listened to my gut,” Arreola said. “While he was there, I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t pray. There was just something not right about him. But at the same time I thought that maybe I was being too hard.”
One of the victims died at the scene.
The other was taken to a hospital in critical condition and died later, police said.
Two others were treated at the scene for minor injuries after they hit their heads ducking for cover, a MedStar spokeswoman said.
On social media, names and photos of the reported victims are beginning to emerge.
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.
Another man being hailed a hero online is Jack Wilson, a Hood County resident running for commissioner for Precinct 3. He handles security at the church and pulled his own gun and took down the shooter, church members said. He took to his campaign’s Facebook page to thank those who continue to send him messages of support in the aftermath of the shooting.
“I just want to thank all who have sent their prayers and comments on the events of today,” he wrote. “The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church. I’m thankful to GOD that I have been blessed with the ability and desire to serve him in the role of head of security at the church. I am very sad in the loss of two dear friends and brothers in CHRIST, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed. Please pray for all the members and their families in this time. Thank you for your prayers and understanding.”
The Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers are leading the investigation.
Authorities are trying to determine if the gunman was driven by a specific ideology, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew Desarno. He said the man had an arrest record but did not elaborate.
He described the shooter as “relatively transient,” but said he had roots in the area.
A clerk at a gas station across the street from the church said the church has a large congregation but seemed less busy than normal Sunday morning. He said police asked him for the gas station’s surveillance footage, but he did not see much on the video.
Mike Drivdahl, a Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman, said the city’s police and fire departments were helping White Settlement police.
State leaders speak
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott credited the quick action of those who took down the gunman.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and families of those killed in the evil act of violence that occurred at the West Freeway Church of Christ,” he said in a statement. “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. Cecilia and I ask all Texans to join us in praying for the White Settlement community and for all those affected by this horrible tragedy.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the shooting ended in six seconds because of the quick response from the church’s security team. The White Settlement Police Department arrived at the church within two minutes, Patrick said at a news conference Sunday evening.
“Had the shooter been able to indiscriminately start firing at the parishioners sitting there in front of him, or at the pastor, we would have had many more lives lost today and had many more serious injuries,” he said.
He said the way the church’s security team handled the shooter will be “studied and watched by law enforcement, private citizens and churches or anyone else who trains in their own security to see how lives can be saved.”
Texas gun laws
A 2017 state law allows churches to hire armed guards. A law that went into effect in September allows licensed handgun owners to bring their firearms to church as long as the church does not oppose it.
The law followed an opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton after the November 2017 shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs that left 26 people dead and another 20 wounded.
Previous church attacks
In November 2017, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on the congregation at a church in Sutherland Springs, killing more than two dozen worshipers, before taking his own life.
Sunday’s shooting also came more than 20 years after a gunman burst into Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth and opened fire, killing seven people before he detonated an explosive device and killed himself in front of more than 200 worshipers.
It was also the second attack on a religious gathering in the U.S. in less than 24 hours. On Saturday night, a man stabbed five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City.
— Compiled by ArLuther Lee, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Information from The Associated Press was used to complete this report.
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