White Settlement, TX – An armed parishioner fatally shot the gunman who murdered two men in the middle of a church service on Sunday (video below).
The entire incident lasted just six seconds, according to The New York Times.
“They saved a lot of lives today,” church minister Jack Cummings told The New York Times. “Because this thing would have been a massacre otherwise.”
During the service, members of the church’s volunteer security team took note of a man who they believed was “acting suspiciously,” Cummings said.
The team of parishioners, all of whom are licensed to carry firearms, train with their weapons frequently, according to the minister.
Footage from the church’s livestream of the service showed the suspect as he made his way out of the pew to receive communion, WFAA reported.
He walked away briefly before he turned back towards the man who just served him communion.
The gunman appeared to speak with him for a moment, then suddenly pulled out a shotgun, the video showed.
A man seated nearby rose to his feet and reached back towards his waistband, but was immediately shot by the gunman.
The suspect then shot the man he had been speaking to, just as a member of the church’s volunteer security team returned fire, dropping the gunman with a single shot.
At least three other parishioners also drew their weapons and approached the wounded gunman as frantic churchgoers fled the sanctuary or sought cover beneath their pews.
“He was immediately hit by one of our marksmen,” Cummings told The New York Times. “The next thing I know, he was lying on the floor.”
The gunman and two male churchgoers were killed during the attack.
According to USA Today, one person died at the scene, another died while en route to the hospital, and a third died at the hospital.
One of the victims was a member of the security team, Cummings told The New York Times.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) described the actions of the men who stopped the gunman as “heroic,” according to USA Today.
“It cannot be overstated how important it is that everyone recognize what took place here today,” DPS Regional Director Jeoff Williams said during a press conference on Sunday. “The citizens who were inside that church undoubtedly saved 242 other parishioners.”
Two other churchgoers suffered minor injuries while attempting to escape from the scene, KTVT reported.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno said that the shooter was “relatively transient,” but that he did have ties to the area.
The identities of the victims and the gunman have not been released, and investigators have not disclosed a possible motive.
SAC DeSarno said the shooter had a history of prior arrests, but that he was not on any watch lists, The New York Times reported.
Church member Tiffany Wallace said that her father, 64-year-old Anton “Tony” Wallace, was one of the two men who were murdered during the attack, KXAS reported.
Wallace, a deacon and lifelong member of the church, was also a registered nurse, father, grandfather, and husband.
“It just happened so fast,” said Tiffany, who was just feet away from her father when he was killed. “The guy just stood up from the pew, turned toward my dad and I guess he shot at the security guard…I ran toward my dad and the last thing I remember is him asking for oxygen and I was just holding him, telling him I loved him and that he was going to make it.”
Wallace was rushed to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds, KXAS reported.
Tiffany described her father as a “godly person,” and said he had previously told her that he was “always prepared” to go to heaven.
“But you never thought this would happen,” she told KXAS.
Tiffany said she has forgiven the gunman, but that she is thankful that the armed parishioners stopped him before he could slaughter more innocent people.
“He is a hero to me,” she said of the security team member.
The church’s senior minister, Britt Farmer, said he appreciates the fact that he lives in a country where people have the right to defend themselves and others.
“We lost two great men today,” Farmer said, according to The New York Times. “It could have been a lot worse. I’m thankful that our government has allowed us the opportunity to protect ourselves.”
A new law allowing licensed firearms owners to carry weapons in places of worship went into effect in Texas in September.
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said that the attacked marked “a horrific day in Tarrant County,” The Dallas Morning News reported.
“Today evil walked boldly among us,” Sheriff Waybourn said. “But let me remind you, good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse.”
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick praised the armed citizens for their prompt and heroic actions, KXAS reported.
“This team responded quickly and within six seconds, the shooting was over,” Patrick said, according to USA Today. “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.”
“Had the shooter been able to indiscriminately start firing into the parishioners sitting there in front of him or the pastor, we would have had many more lives lost today and many more serious injuries,” he said, according to KTVT.
Texas Governor Greg Abbot denounced the attack, calling it an “evil act of violence.”
“I am grateful for the church members who acted quickly to take down the shooter and help prevent further loss of life,” the governor said. “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.”
You can watch footage from the church’s livestream in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content: