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.
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."
Our prayers are with the families of the victims and the congregation of yesterday’s church attack. It was over in 6 seconds thanks to the brave parishioners who acted to protect 242 fellow worshippers. Lives were saved by these heroes, and Texas laws allowing them to carry arms!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
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.”
We are shocked and saddened to hear reports of a shooting at a church in White Settlement.
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 video shared 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.