Thursday, March 23, 2023

Church shooting in Alabama kills 3; suspect detained

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. ( Associated Press) – The 70-year-old visitor previously did some services at St. Attended Stephen’s Episcopal Church before police say he showed up for a potty meal, pulled out a handgun and shot dead three of the elderly participants. of whom one died in his wife’s arms while his words of love whispered in his ear.

Police said church members were spared further violence Thursday night when someone at the dinner suppressed the gunman and continued until police arrived. The suspect, Robert Findlay Smith, was charged Friday with capital murder, Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr said in a statement.

The staggering violence in a wealthy suburb outside Birmingham has left victims’ families in disbelief, stunned a community known for its family-centered lifestyle and deepened unrest in a country still reeling from the recent massacre of gunmen by a Texas School, attacked a grocery store in New York. shop and another church in California.

Two of the Alabama shooters were 84; the third, 75. They met with other church members for a “Boomers Potluck.” St. Stephen’s was Walter Bartlett Rainey’s favorite place, a church that “welcomes everyone with love,” according to his family. They said in a statement on Friday that it was hard to believe he was killed when he attended a church dinner with his wife of six decades.

“We are all grateful that she was spared and that he died in her arms while his words of comfort and love mumbled in his ears,” reads the statement provided by 84-year-old Rainey’s daughter, Melinda Rainey Thompson. .

Police said Sarah Yeager, 75, of Pelham, died shortly after she was taken to a hospital on Thursday. The third victim, an 84-year-old woman, died Friday. Police did not immediately release her name, citing a request by her family for privacy.

More people would probably have been killed or injured if the shooter had not been stopped, said Capt. Shane Ware, Vestavia Hills police, said.

“It was vital to save lives,” Ware told a news conference on Friday. “The person who suppressed the suspect was, in my opinion, a hero.”

READ MORE: What research says about identifying people who could possibly commit mass shootings

True said Smith and the three victims were all white. He said police are still investigating what motivated the suspect, who occasionally attended services at the church. Authorities conducted a search warrant at Smith’s home Friday, less than 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the church. A mugshot spread by police shows Smith with a black left eye and cuts to his nose and forehead.

Records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show Smith is a licensed arms dealer whose business address is the same as his home address. Court records show Smith filed a lawsuit in 2008 against Samford University, a private university in the Birmingham subway, alleging that campus security detained him and accusing him of pretending to be a police officer.

The church meeting on Thursday was described as a “Boomers Potluck”, according to messages posted on the church’s Facebook page by Rev. John Burruss, the pastor. He said he was on a pilgrimage to Greece with a group of members and was trying to return to Alabama.

Ashley Curry, mayor of Vestavia Hills, told reporters his “close, resilient, loving community” was shaken by “this senseless act of violence.” The bedroom community is home to many business people, doctors and lawyers working in nearby Birmingham. Vestavia Hills is known for top flying schools and a suburban lifestyle. It has nearly 40,000 inhabitants, most of whom are white.

Rev. Rebecca Bridges, the church’s co-rector, led an online prayer service on the church’s Facebook page on Friday morning. She not only prayed for the victims and church members who witnessed the shooting, but also “for the person who committed the shooting.”

“We pray that you will work in that person’s heart,” Bridges said. “And we pray that You will help us to forgive.”

Bridges, who is currently in London, referred to other recent mass shootings when she prayed that elected officials in Washington and Alabama “would see what happened at St. Stephens and Uvalde and Buffalo and in so many other places and their hearts will be changed. , thoughts will be opened. ”

“And that we will change culture and that we will change laws in ways that will protect us all,” she added.

There have been several high-profile shootings in May and June, starting with a racist attack on May 14 that killed 10 black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The following week, a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Thursday’s shooting happened just over a month after one person was killed and five injured when a man opened fire on Taiwanese congregation members at a church in Southern California. It comes almost seven years after the day after a pronounced white supremacy killed nine people during Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Agents from the FBI, US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives joined investigators at the scene, which was cordoned off with yellow police ribbon on Friday as flashing vehicles blocked the route to church.

On Saturday, thousands of people in the U.S. and at the National Mall in Washington, DC gathered to renew calls for stricter gun control measures. Survivors of mass shootings and other incidents of firearms seized from legislators and testified on Capitol Hill earlier this month.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement late Thursday lamenting what she called the shocking and tragic loss of life. Although she said she was glad to hear the suspect was in custody, she wrote: “It should never happen – in a church, in a shop, in the city or anywhere.”

Editor’s note: This pity was corrected to reflect that police now say the suspect is 70, not 71.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
Latest news
Related news