A gunman opened fire Sunday morning at a church in White Settlement, killing one person and critically wounding another before churchgoers fatally shot him, authorities said.
Police in White Settlement, about eight miles west of Fort Worth, were called about 10 a.m. to the West Freeway Church of Christ at 1900 South Las Vegas Trail, where three people were treated for gunshot wounds.
Glen E. Ellman/FortWorthFire.net
Two of the wounded people — one of whom was the gunman — died at a hospital, MedStar spokeswoman Macara Trusty said.
Paramedics resuscitated the third person, who went into cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital. That person remained in critical condition.
Two other people were treated and released at the scene for minor injuries they suffered when they hit their heads while they were ducking for cover, Trusty said.
Authorities have not identified the victims or the suspect.
‘Today evil walked boldly among us’
Law enforcement officials said Sunday that there was no ongoing threat to the public in connection with the shooting. They praised two churchgoers for killing the gunman.
White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering said the Texas Department of Public Safety would lead the investigation into the shooting.
Authorities did not release any information about a possible motive in the shooting.
Jeoff Williams, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said there was an enormous police response Sunday morning to learn more about what led to the shooting.
Williams said the nation has seen so many shootings “that we’ve actually gotten used to it.”
“I would like to point out that we have a couple of heroic parishioners who ... saved countless lives,” Williams said. “Our hearts are going out to them and their families as well.”
Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI Dallas office, said the agency was offering its resources to help with the investigation.
“We are working very hard to find motive to get to the bottom of what happened,” DeSarno said. “As you see from the group assembled behind me, an incident like this does not get solved and we don’t get to the bottom of it without significant partnership.”
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said Sunday was "a horrific day in Tarrant County."
“Today evil walked boldly among us,” he said. “But let me remind you, good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse.”
Bevering, the White Settlement police chief, offered his condolences to the victims and the churchgoers who survived the shooting.
“We’re all hurting right now, and I just want your prayers for everybody at this time,” he said.
Hours after the shooting, as churchgoers left the scene, John Richardson stood alongside his wife, Diana, outside a Waffle House near the church.
The couple has been married for 47 years and have attended West Freeway Church of Christ for more than half of their marriage, he said.
Richardson was in good spirits after witnessing the shooting, saying he and his wife have been through worse. Years ago, they were involved in a tragic car accident that left Diana with a traumatic brain injury.
“Once you’ve been through something traumatic like that, you already appreciate life that much more,” Richardson said.
He said he had no hate for the shooter, who he called one of God’s creations.
“You can’t have hate for these people," Richardson said. "You can’t have hate for anybody.”
Live-stream captures shooting
A live-stream video that captured the shooting appeared to have been removed from the church’s YouTube page shortly after the attack, but copies are circulating on social media.
In the video, the shooter, who is wearing what seems to be a dark-colored hood, gets up from a pew in the back of the room and walks up to a man in a suit who is standing in the corner.
As the two speak and the man points to his right, the shooter reaches into his jacket and pulls out what appears to be a shotgun.
A man sitting nearby stands up and reaches toward the back of his waistband as several others start to take cover, but most people in the sanctuary appear to be unaware of what is happening.
The shooter fires twice while stepping backward down the aisle, striking the man who stood up and then the man he first approached.
Another man then pulls out a handgun and fires once, striking the shooter just as he turns toward the front of the room. Six seconds have elapsed since the shooter pulled out his gun.
After the gunman’s first shot, nearly everyone in the room startles, trying to find the source of the noise. As the gunman fires again, most of the worshippers begin ducking behind the pews, and a church leader standing on stage dives onto the floor.
Several people in the opposite corner run up the aisle toward an exit, leaving papers and a book scattered in their wake. One woman crawls. An older man, who has turned to watch what’s happening, hardly moves.
Screams fill the air as the gunman is shot and falls to the ground.
A woman runs shrieking toward the victims as someone tries to help the first man who was shot, who is out of view. The second victim, who tumbled onto what appears to be a bench after he was shot, sits up.
Meanwhile, at least five other worshippers pull out handguns and slowly approach the shooter. The man who shot the gunman kicks away the gunman’s firearm and picks it up.
State officials react
Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting an “evil act of violence” in a statement Sunday afternoon.
“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. “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 Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office asked for prayers for the victims and their families and said the office will assist in any way needed.
Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said details about the shooter are under investigation.
“No one should be subjected to gunfire in a house of worship,” Nealy Cox said in a tweeted statement.
Sunday’s attack came 20 years after a gunman walked into a Wednesday evening prayer service at Wedgwood Baptist Church in September 1999 and killed four teenagers and three adults before fatally shooting himself. Seven more people were injured.
A law went into effect in September 2017 that allows churches to hire armed guards. Licensed handgun owners are also allowed to bring firearms into the church as long as the church allows it, and a law passed earlier this year required churches to give notice to their congregations if they want to ban guns.
Glen E. Ellman/FortWorthFire.net
Churches, synagogues and mosques previously had been off-limits to gun owners, but lawmakers decided to lift the restriction as a response to the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting in which 26 victims were fatally shot and 20 more were wounded. The gunman in that attack also died.
©2019 The Dallas Morning News
Visit The Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.