Police say a 71-year-old man at a church potluck in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, opened fire Thursday evening, killing three other elderly attendees.
Police did not identify the shooter, but said in the release that he acted alone and was in the custody of the Vestavia Hills Police Department.
Charges of capital murder are expected later today from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, police indicated. Authorities have not said what the shooter’s motive might have been.
One man, 84-year-old Walter Rainey, died at the scene. A 75-year-old woman, Sarah Yeager, died after being taken to the hospital. Both were from the Birmingham area.
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Police announced Friday afternoon that the third victim, an 84-year-old woman, had succumbed to her injuries. She was not identified by her family’s request.
Thursday’s shooting was the third church shooting reported in the last month. One person died in a shooting at a Los Angeles church on May 16, and two were killed June 3 in an Iowa church’s parking lot just after leaving a college ministry gathering.
The night of the shooting at St. Stephen’s, it had been almost exactly seven years since a gunman took nine lives at another church, Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Today marks the anniversary of the Charleston church shooting.
Vestavia Hills police said the man in custody had occasionally attended St. Stephen’s. He was seated by himself at the potluck for the Boomers Fellowship Group, so another member invited him to sit with them, the Birmingham News reported.
The man declined, a retired St. Stephen’s rector told the newspaper. The man later pulled out a concealed handgun and started shooting, hitting the three victims, according to police.
The Birmingham News reported that another man then threw a chair at the shooter and took his gun. The paper said police called that man a hero.
The Boomers Fellowship Group is one of 18 Bible studies or small groups hosted by St. Stephen’s.
The church’s rector posted a video message to Facebook on Thursday evening and emailed a response to the shootings to parishioners shortly after midnight Friday. Rector John Burrussmourned the tragedy and asked for prayers for the families of the victims, one of whom was still fighting for her life at the time.
Burruss’s voice wavered at times as he read on video from the Book of Common Prayer.
This morning, St. Stephen’s also posted resources for grieving members and addressed the tragedy in its thrice-weekly devotional.
“My heart is tired from hearing of the shooting down of yet more innocent people—and all the more because these are these sheep of our very own fold,” wrote Rebecca Bridges, associate rector for formation and outreach. “And so, all I know to do right now to rest in God’s presence, crying out in the middle of the night and now in the beginning of the new day: How long, O God?”
She then quoted the three lines of the Kyrie Eleison liturgical prayer: “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”
Sarah Einselen es una escritora y editora premiada que vive en Texas, EEUU.