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'Evil Walked Boldly Among Us': Parishioners Kill Gunman After He Fires In North Texas Church

Law enforcement vehicles are seen parked outside West Freeway Church of Christ as authorities continue to investigate a fatal shooting at the church, Sunday, Dec. 29.
David Kent
Associated Press
Law enforcement vehicles are seen parked outside West Freeway Church of Christ as authorities continue to investigate a fatal shooting at the church, Sunday, Dec. 29.

A gunman who opened fire Sunday morning at a suburban Fort Worth church was killed by two parishioners, authorities say. Two people died from the wounds they sustained at the hands of the shooter.

Authorities identified the victims as Anton Wallace, 64, of Fort Worth and Richard White, 67, of River Oaks. The gunman was Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43, of River Oaks.

The man entered the West Freeway Church of Christ at 10:50 a.m. The church is at 1900 S. Las Vegas Trail in White Settlement, a suburb just west of Fort Worth. Authorities said two parishioners, volunteer members of the church's security team, returned fire, killing the shooter. A livestream video from the church shows at least a half-dozen church members pulling out guns as the scene settled down.

At a press conference Sunday afternoon, authorities called the actions of the church members heroic. "Evil walked boldly among us today," said Tarrant County Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn. "Good people rose up and stopped it before it got worse."

At a second press conference Sunday evening, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised law enforcement for responding so quickly, and stressed the importance of the citizens on the scene who were willing to intercede before police could arrive.

"We have to lift up real heroes today," Patrick said. "The immediate responder is the most important." 

The church's senior minister, Britt Farmer, mourned the loss of those he called "two great men," and asked for continued prayers.

"Today our home was invaded by evil," Farmer said. 

He expressed hope that other institutions will learn from the church's decision to have a volunteer, armed security team.

"Today we proved that not only can we be God-loving, God-fearing people, but we can protect each other as well," Farmer said.

There will be a meeting at the church for the entire congregation Monday at 6 p.m. 

Multiple law enforcement agencies — from the White Settlement police department to the FBI — are working on the investigation. White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering said the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety will take the lead. 

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno said they haven't identified the gunman’s motive yet, but he had a connection to the area.

A witness told  CBS affiliate KTVT that the shooter approached a server during communion with a long gun and then opened fire. 

“It was the most scariest thing," witness Isabel Arreola told the TV station. "You feel like your life is flashing before you. I was so worried about my little one.”

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.— Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (@TXAG) December 29, 2019

The shooting was captured on the livestream video of the church's Sunday service. The  graphic videoshared by the  Fort Worth Star-Telegram shows the gunman getting up from a church pew and appearing to speak to someone in the sanctuary before opening fire on two people. (KERA is not posting the video because of its graphic nature.)

A new  Texas law that took effect Sept. 1 allows Texans to carry guns in churches, synagogues and other places of worship, unless otherwise banned by those places with proper signage.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued  a statement asking Texans to join him and his wife in praying for those affected by the tragedy.

"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,” Abbott 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.”

The church is 10 miles northwest of  Wedgwood Baptist, the Fort Worth church where a gunman killed seven people and then himself in 1999.

This is a developing story.

Updated Dec. 30 at 1p.m.

Copyright 2020 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Gabrielle Jones has a passion for serving diverse audiences. She is the Digital News Editor at KERA in Dallas, Texas. Previously she worked at Richmond, Virginia's PBS and NPR affiliate, VPM. Jones joined VPM in 2015 and worked in a variety of roles in the fundraising, digital and news departments. Jones completed her undergraduate work in English and Mass Communications at North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C., where she finished her bachelor's degree in just three years. She earned her master’s degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University. She specializes in helping teams craft and implement digital content and engagement strategies.
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