VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. ( Associated Press) – A third elderly church member who was shot when a man pulled out a handgun during a potty meal has died, police said Friday.
The 84-year-old woman died hours after she was rushed to a hospital after the Thursday night shooting at St. Louis. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills. The suspect, a 70-year-old man, was oppressed and detained by a person who attended the meal until police arrived, which spared the congregation from further violence, police said. Shane Ware said.
“It was vital to save lives,” Ware told a news conference. “The person who suppressed the suspect was, in my opinion, a hero.”
True said the suspect and the three victims were all white.
The woman who died Friday was not immediately identified. Vestavia Hills police said in a Facebook post that her name was withheld because her family requested privacy.
Walter Bartlett Rainey (84) of nearby Irondale was killed at the church and Sarah Yeager (75) of Pelham died shortly after she was taken to a hospital on Thursday.
Rainey’s family said in a statement Friday that it’s hard to believe he was killed at one of his favorite places, a church that “welcomes everyone with love,” while attending a dinner with his 61-year-old wife has.
“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 Rainey’s daughter, Melinda Rainey Thompson.
“We are proud that in his last act on earth, he extended the hand of community and community to a stranger, regardless of the outcome,” Rainey’s family said.
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Police are still investigating what motivated the suspect, who occasionally attended services at the church, Ware said. He said the man’s name was withheld until prosecutors formally charged him with capital murder.
The event was a “Boomers Potluck” meeting inside the church, 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 one of the richest cities in Alabama, home to many business people, doctors and lawyers working in nearby Birmingham. Vestavia Hills is known for top flying schools and a family-centered, 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.