Texas Congregants Return Fire After Gunman Fatally Shoots 2 People
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Livestream video from inside the West Freeway Church of Christ outside Fort Worth, Texas, shows many people at a service on Sunday. The video also shows a man opening fire, and authorities say he killed two people. Then, a man identified as a member of the church volunteer security team shot and killed him.
Syeda Hasan of member station KERA has been following this story and joins us from Dallas via Skype. Good morning.
SYEDA HASAN, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: How did this event unfold?
HASAN: Well, we saw on that video - churchgoers took cover under the pews as the gunman opens fire. Authorities say that the gunman actually sat with parishioners for part of that service before turning his gun on churchgoers. You can hear people screaming. It was truly a chaotic scene at the church. Almost immediately, though, another man fires at the gunman, who then falls to the ground. Multiple people approached the gunman with their guns drawn as he laid there. And the scene was quickly over just after it unfolded.
INSKEEP: I guess you've been able to hear from the senior minister there. Right?
HASAN: Yes, that's right. So officials have said that the suspect was transient, but he had some connection to the area. We know that the congregation is expressing their gratefulness for the quick response of their armed security team. Britt Farmer is the church's senior minister. Let's listen to what he had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BRITT FARMER: We lost two great men today, but it could have been a lot worse. And I am thankful that our government has allowed us the opportunity to protect ourselves.
INSKEEP: Syeda, tell me what is known about this volunteer security team. I guess we should note this is not random people in the congregation who happen to be armed. Right? These were people who were prepared and trained in some way.
HASAN: Right. So the video does show multiple people with their guns drawn. We don't know the size of that volunteer security team, but these were members of the church who volunteered in that capacity to serve as armed security for the church and responded to that attack. We don't know the extent of the training that they may had. Investigators were not open to disclosing those details just yet. But our lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, has referred to them as a well-trained security team.
INSKEEP: And in any case, they had a legal right to be armed inside that church. Is that correct?
HASAN: Yes, that's right. So Texas law allows for people to carry guns in houses of worship. As you know, places of worship from different faiths have been targeted in violent attacks. And two years ago, 26 people were killed in a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. So after that attack, Texas passed a law allowing people to carry firearms in houses of worship. And speaking at the scene yesterday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick praised those gun laws and says the security team was able to put a quick end to this attack.
INSKEEP: Can I ask about one particularly striking detail that you gave us? You said that, according to this video, it appeared that the attacker sat in the congregation - sat next to the people he was about to attack, spent time with them, communed with them in that way, which - I don't know - makes it somehow even more disturbing. How are people responding to what this person then did?
HASAN: The church community is truly in shock, and folks are really reeling from the attack. We know that the church leaders have planned a gathering this evening - a churchwide meeting to sort of help people begin the healing process - coming together and supporting each other in the wake of this tragedy. Minister Britt Farmer, who we heard from, tells us that they're simply asking for continued prayers from the community at this time.
INSKEEP: Syeda Hasan of our member station KERA, thanks so much.
HASAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.