Church members acted quickly to take down a gunman who opened fire Sunday at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, authorities said.
The gunman fatally shot a person and critically wounded another before several members of the congregation returned fire during a service at the church at 1900 S. Las Vegas Trail, White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering said. The gunman died at the scene, Bevering said.
The shooting appeared to happen during communion, according to a livestream video of the service obtained by the Star-Telegram.
A man was standing toward the back of the sanctuary holding a tray when the shooter got up from a nearby pew, walked toward the man and appeared to say something to him.
The gunman then backed up, pulled out a long gun and fired a shot toward a man who was seated nearby. He then fired a shot toward at the man holding the tray.
A man in the back then pointed a handgun at the gunman and fired one shot. The gunman fell, and at least three or four more people armed with handguns walk toward the gunman.
The gunman was being watched by members of the church security team because of his appearance, said Mike Tinius, church elder. But Tinius would not elaborate what it was about the gunman’s appearance that attracted the attention of the church security personnel.
“By the sequence of events it should be assumed that he came in with an idea,” Tinius said.
The gunfire came without warning, said Tinius, who was present at the church when the shooting took place. The gunman was someone he had never seen before, Tinius said, There is no motive that he can fathom, Tinius said.
“Unfortunately this country has seen so many of these that we’ve actually gotten used to them at this point,” said Jeff Williams, a regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. “I would like to point out that we have a couple of heroic parishioners who stopped short of anything you can even imagine and saved countless lives, our hearts are going out to them and their families as well.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew Desarno said investigators are still determining a motive. The Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers will lead the investigation.
One person was revived while being taken to the hospital, a MedStar spokeswoman said. That person is now in surgery, MedStar said. Two others were treated at the scene for minor injuries after they hit their heads ducking for cover.
White Settlement and Fort Worth police and fire departments were packed on the street and the church parking lot at noon. South Las Vegas Trail was blocked by police cars.
Crime scene tape was strung up along the Waffle House parking lot next to the church.
A clerk at the gas station across the street from the church said the church has a large congregation but seemed less busy Sunday morning. He said police asked him for the gas station’s surveillance footage, but he did not see much on the video.
“A very tragic day when anybody in our community suffers, whether it’s a community that’s next to Fort Worth or in Fort Worth itself. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families affected by this incident,” said Mike Drivdahl, a Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman. .
“It not only affects the people that were here today, but it affects our first responders as well,” Drivdahl said. “All of our first responders carry these things with them for a long time.”
Gov. Greg Abbot credited the quick action of those who took down the gunman.
“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,” he said in a statement. “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. Cecilia and I ask all Texans to join us in praying for the White Settlement community and for all those affected by this horrible tragedy.”
Said Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn: “Today evil walked fully among us. Let me remind you, good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse.”
GUNS IN CHURCH
A Texas law went into effect in September 2017 that allows churches to hire armed guards. Attorney General Ken Paxton clarified months later that the law also allows licensed handgun owners to bring their firearms to church as long as the church does not oppose it.
The clarification was released in an opinion by Paxton after a November 2017 shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Twenty-six people were fatally shot, and another 20 were wounded.
Sunday’s shooting came a little more than 20 years after a gunman burst into Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth and opened fire, killing seven people before he detonated an explosive device and killed himself in front of more than 200 worshippers.
Return to star-telegram.com for more on this developing story.