A gunman who killed two people during a Texas church service was fatally shot within seconds by armed congregants, said Texas officials, who hailed the state’s gun laws that allow weapons in places of worship.
More than 240 parishioners were in the West Freeway Church in the Fort Worth-area town of White Settlement at the time of the Dec. 29 shooting, authorities said.
Jack Wilson, a 71-year-old firearms instructor, fired the single shot that quickly ended the attack and killed the 43-year-old shooter, who reportedly had sought assistance from the church on several occasions.
Wilson said alarms went off in his head the moment the man wearing a fake beard, a wig, a hat and a long coat walked into a Texas church for Sunday morning services.
Security team members kept their eyes on him, and during the service, Wilson and fellow security team member Richard White, 67, had stationed themselves at the back of the church, watching him.
White was killed by the gunman, as was Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64, who was serving communion when he was shot.
As Wilson approached the fallen attacker, he noticed five or six other members of the volunteer security team he had trained with their guns drawn.
At a press conference Dec. 29, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the gunman was killed within six seconds of opening fire.
Patrick hailed the state’s gun laws, including a measure enacted earlier this year that allowed licensed guns in places of worship, unless the facility bans them.
Britt Farmer, senior minister of the church, said, “We lost two great men today, but it could have been a lot worse.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno said the gunman had been arrested multiple times in the past but declined to give details and said the shooter’s motives are under investigation.
Mike Tinius, an elder at the church told the New York Times that White “was trying to do what he needed to do to protect the rest of us.”
“It’s extremely upsetting to see anyone committing violence,” Tinius said.
Tinius said he didn’t know the gunman and that the shooting appeared to be random.
In a livestream of the church service, the gunman can be seen getting up from a pew and talking to someone at the back of the church before pulling out a gun and opening fire.
Parishioners can then be heard screaming and seen ducking under pews or running as papers fly to the floor.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked the state to pray for the victims, their loved ones and the community of White Settlement, about 8 miles west of Fort Worth.
“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,” Abbott said in a tweeted statement.
It is not the first deadly shooting to take place at a church in Texas. In November 2017, a gunman opened fire on the congregation at a church in Sutherland Springs, killing more than two dozen worshippers, before taking his own life.
And in 1999, a gunman killed seven people in Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth before detonating an explosive device and killing himself.
The Texas shooting was also the second attack on a religious gathering in the U.S. in less than 24 hours. On Dec. 28, a man stabbed five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City.