A gunman opened fire in a church in Texas, fatally shooting two parishioners before being killed by an armed member of the congregation.
The gunman stood up from a pew at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, a suburb of Fort Worth, pulled out a shotgun and begun firing.
Police said they were still trying to determine the attacker’s motives.
White Settlement Police Chief JP Bevering praised “the heroic actions” of those who confronted the attacker.
The shooting took place at about 11:50 (17:50 GMT), during the morning service. The service was being live-streamed on social media.
Video footage showed the gunman stand up from a pew and speak to a man nearby, who gestured at another parishioner. The gunman then fired at the man he gestured toward.
The gunman fired again, at the man he had spoken to, before a member of the congregation acting as a security guard returned fire with a handgun, immediately felling the attacker. Several other parishioners also produced handguns and trained them on the attacker. It was not clear from the video footage whether any of the other armed parishioners fired shots.
The two churchgoers who were shot died later in hospital, police said.
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Members of the congregation in the nearly full church were seen on the livestream ducking down behind pews as screaming filled the room.
There should be NO weapons at ANY religious service ANYWHERE. Only if religion is a vehicle for contriving peaceful reconciliation can it offer the rest of us any value.”Texas church shooting: Two fatally shot before gunman killed by churchgoer – BBC News” https://t.co/fp7zwuF4yH
— Ron Delnevo (@RonCashman) December 30, 2019
Jack Cummings, a minister at the church, told the New York Times that the gunman had been “acting suspiciously” and drew the attention of the church’s security team.
The security team is made up of volunteers from the church’s membership who are licensed to carry firearms. “They saved a lot of lives today because this thing would have been a massacre otherwise,” Mr Cummings said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the “an evil act of violence”.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Witness Isabel Arreola told local broadcaster CBS DFW: “It was the most scariest thing. You feel like your life is flashing before you. I was so worried about my little one.”
In September, a new law came into effect in Texas that allowed licensed handgun owners to carry weapons in places of worship.
The state has seen a number of deadly this year. In August, 22 people died and 24 were wounded at a Walmart store in El Paso. The same month a gunman killed seven and wounded 20 at Odessa-Midland.
In 2017, 26 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, during a Sunday service.
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