Suspect shoots and kills 2 inside a Texas church before parishioners fatally shoot him
WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — A man shot and killed two people during a church service in White Settlement, Texas, on Sunday before two members of the church security team shot and killed him, authorities said.
City Police Chief J.P. Bevering said it appeared the shooter walked into West Freeway Church of Christ and sat down in the sanctuary, then stood, pulled out a shotgun and shot two parishioners.
“There was a security team inside the church and they eliminated the threat,” Bevering said.
Bevering praised the churchgoers who returned fire and killed the suspect as “heroic” and said there is no ongoing threat.
Matthew DeSarno, the FBI agent in charge of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said the motive is unknown, and nobody knows yet whether the shooter targeted the victims. DeSarno said the investigation will determine whether the shooter was driven by any sort of ideology.
He didn’t identify the shooter, but said he was “relatively transient with roots to this area” and had been arrested multiple times in different municipalities.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the incident was over within six seconds.
“This church has its own security team,” he said. “They were well trained. The heroism today is unparalleled. … Two of the parishioners who are volunteers on the security force drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately, saving untold number of lives.”
Video shows the shooting
A video livestream from the church, seen by CNN, appears to show how the shooting unfolded. The entire incident, from the time the shooter pulled out his gun until he was shot, took six seconds.
Lisa Farmer, the wife of the West Freeway Church of Christ Minister Britt Farmer, was not inside the church at the time of the shooting but said the video shows the inside of the church building.
The video, obtained by CNN affiliate KTVT, shows the shooter seated in a pew toward the rear of the church during the service. The shooter, dressed in dark clothes, approaches someone in the back corner and appears to talk to them. That individual gestures toward the center of the church.
The shooter pulled out a long gun and opened fire on the man before shooting a second man.
It appears that a man, toward the left of the screen, draws a handgun and fires. The shooter falls to the ground immediately. Three muzzle flashes are seen on the video.
The YouTube video has since been made private.
‘It was so chaotic’
The shooting happened during communion, Lisa Farmer told CNN.
“It was so chaotic,” she said. “I think all the congregation is being held inside, all being held for questioning.”
The church normally has around 280 people attending Sunday services, she said. She didn’t identify the congregant who died but described him as a close friend “who would do anything for anybody that he could. Good guy. He’s been there for us through thick and thin.”
Video of the scene from CNN affiliate KTVT showed several agencies present — including Fort Worth Police, Fort Worth Fire Department and MedStar EMS. Several people could be seen outside the church, which was roped off with yellow police tape.
Guns are legal in Texas churches
The shooting comes more than two years after a gunman opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs — a community about 300 miles away from White Settlement — killing at least 26 people.
After the Sutherland Springs shooting, the state loosened its gun laws to allow churchgoers to carry firearms into houses of worship.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott offered his condolences in the wake of the shooting.
“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. “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.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear about the shooting.
“As reports come in, please pray for any victims and their families, this congregation, and the law enforcement officials at the scene. My office will assist in any way needed,” he said.