Church of Christ Settlement shooting
A gunman opened fire during the Lord’s Supper at a Church of Christ in Texas this morning, killing two worshipers.
Armed members immediately returned fire and killed the shooter at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the Fort Worth suburb of White Settlement.
“Today, evil walked boldly among us,” Tarrant County Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn said at an afternoon news briefing. “But let me remind you: Good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse.”
Jeoff Williams, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said: “The citizens who were inside that church undoubtedly saved 242 other parishioners. … The true heroes are the people who were sitting in those pews today — the immediate responders who saved their fellow citizens. I just can’t overstate how critical that is for everyone to recognize. It is truly heroic.”
“The citizens who were inside that church undoubtedly saved 242 other parishioners.”
Minister Britt Farmer praised Texas officials — including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — and law enforcement officials for their quick response to the shooting.
“We lost two great men today, but it could have been a lot worse,” Farmer said. “And I am thankful that our government has allowed us the opportunity to protect ourselves.
“We have a congregation here of open-hearted people,” he added. “We’re help people — we’re here to help people — and to have something like this happen destroys my heart. When I say destroys, it destroys it because there is evil in this world.
“Today is one sermon I’ll never preach. It’ll go away. But it was called ‘Leaving a Legacy,’ and two men today left a legacy. The congregation is going to build on that legacy.”
A video of the church’s worship assembly, viewed by The Christian Chronicle, showed a man saying something to a member holding a communion tray. Then the man backed up, pulled out a weapon and fired at that member and another man near the back of the nearly full auditorium. In just a few seconds, at least one armed member returned fire, and the shooter fell to the ground.
At least two additional people with handguns approached the gunman as the gunfire ended — the loud blasts replaced with screams and tears from the shocked congregation.
“Tragically, the person shot by the suspect died at a local hospital, and a second parishioner has life-threatening injuries,” White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering said. Officials later announced that the second church member had died, too.
Bevering offered his condolences to the church and said, “We’re all hurting right now. I just want your prayer for everybody at this time.”
The Texas Rangers and state DPS are leading the investigation into what happened, the chief said. Others involved in the joint law enforcement response include the FBI, the White Settlement and Fort Worth police departments and the Tarrant County sheriff’s office.
“We are working very hard to find motive and get to the bottom of what happened,” said Matthew J. DeSarno, the FBI’s Dallas special agent in charge.
“Today, evil walked boldly among us. But let me remind you: Good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse.”
This marks the third fatal Sunday shooting at a Church of Christ in just over two years.
Earlier this year, church elder Gordon Parmenter died after an armed man entered the church’s building in the western Canadian province of British Columbia and opened fire with an “assault-style rifle.”
Elsewhere, the Chronicle has reported on responses by Churches of Christ to shootings in San Bernardino, Calif.; Sutherland Springs, Texas; Benton, Ky.; El Paso, Texas; Orlando, Fla.; and Sandy Hook, Conn.
Other coverage included a piece on “God, guns and keeping Christians safe.”
Longtime West Freeway Church member John Richardson survived this morning’s shooting.
He and his wife hit the ground and he laid on top of her to protect her.
Here he selflessly says that he’s praying for the suspect’s family. pic.twitter.com/QFFjGpqMai
— Matt Howerton (@HowertonNews) December 29, 2019
The Harding family sends prayers and deepest sympathy to our brothers and sisters at the West Freeway congregation in Texas as they cope with this morning’s shooting during worship. May the God of all peace comfort those affected by this tragedy. https://t.co/75Yu63Mzxv
— Bruce McLarty (@BruceMcLarty) December 29, 2019
From President @davidshannonfhu : “Our hearts are broken, as we pray for the West Freeway congregation. The FHU family and brothers and sisters around the world are praying for you. We love you. The Psalmist knew God is the only hope, even in the day of tragedy. Psalms 46:1,11” https://t.co/cloavFYrGl
— Freed-Hardeman U (@freedhardeman) December 29, 2019