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WARNING: Graphic content. Violence blurred.
Tragedy struck in a church as a Texas man pulled out a shotgun and shot two parishioners before being shot to death by a congregant who had his gun on him.
The whole incident, though, was over in less than six seconds.
Police on the scene at the media event on Sunday thanked the two churchgoers who shot at the man, killing him before he could harm others. The men, who were both serving as volunteers at the West Streetway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas.
According to USA Today, up to seven congregants were armed at the church. Texas is a state that fully allows worshippers to be armed at their churches.
“This team responded quickly and within six seconds, the shooting was over. Two of the parishioners who were volunteers of the security force drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately, saving untold number of lives,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, praising the state’s gun laws.
A senior minister of the church told media that two “great men” were lost in the massacre, “but it could have been a lot worse.”
“We have to understand that this poor man, I don’t know what his mental state was,” said longtime West Freeway Church member John Richardson, who survived this morning’s shooting after covering his wife during the fire.”
“My heart goes out to his family, because they have to live with this. I know he took some lives, but we have to remember that he’s a creature of God also.”
Authorities say roughly 240 parishioners were in attendance that day.
Police Department chief JP Bevering said the gunman had taken a seat at a pew before standing up and revealing a shotgun, then pointing it at a parishioner, who was killed. He said the threat was then “eliminated” by the church’s security team.
The name or potential identity of the gunman has not been released, though FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno told media that they are investigating the potential motive of the attack, noting that the shooter is “relatively transient” But has roots in the Texas area.
DeSarno also revealed that the shooter had roots in the area, and was known to police, though no further details were given.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave his condolences and asked that those in the state pray for the victims.
“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 tweeted.
The tragedy is not the first of its kind. In 2017, a man shot and killed churchgoers at Sutherland Springs, killing 25 before being chased down by an armed neighbour and eventually killing himself.