Alabama church shooting: Firearms dealer, 70, leaves 3 dead after he opened fire during potluck dinner

Police confirmed a suspect had been taken into custody after he shot three people dead and left a third injured inside a church on Thursday, June 16


                            Alabama church shooting: Firearms dealer, 70, leaves 3 dead after he opened fire during potluck dinner
Vestavia Hills police Capt Shane Ware said multiple law enforcement officers rushed to the site after a call reporting an active shooter at 6.22 pm (Screenshot from nbcnews report)
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UPDATE: A third victim has died after two people were killed when a gunman opened fire inside St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills near Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday, June 16, Vestavia Hills. The 84-year-old woman died after being rushed to a hospital following the shooting. The other two people who were found dead at the scene of the shooting have been identified as Walter Rainey, 84, and Sarah Yeager, 75.

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The suspected gunman, who was arrested Thursday, June 16 has been identified as Robert Findlay Smith and charged with capital murder by the Jefferson County District Attorney's office on Friday, June 17. Ware said the suspect was "subdued" by another attendee of the potluck. Smith is 70 years old. Police previously identified the suspected gunman as a 71 year-old male.

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BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: Two people were killed and a third was injured when a gunman opened fire inside St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills near Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday, June 16, police said. The suspect was quickly taken into custody. Vestavia Hills police capt Shane Ware said multiple law enforcement officers rushed to the site after a call reporting an active shooter at 6.22 pm.

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“From what we’ve gathered from the circumstances of this evening, a lone suspect entered a small church group meeting and began shooting,” Ware said at a briefing late on Thursday, June 16, as reported by NBC news. “Three people were shot. Two people are deceased. One person is being treated for an unknown injury at a local hospital.”He added that a suspect was in custody and that there was “no threat to the community at this time”.

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Ware, however, did not identify the shooter or say if investigators had determined a motive. He further said that the person who was injured was being treated at a hospital and police were expected to conduct another briefing Friday morning. The FBI, the US Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are aiding in the investigation, Ware later said.

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Kelley Hudlow, the missioner for clergy formation for the diocese of Alabama, told WVTM of Birmingham soon after the shooting that the church and the community were shocked by the incident. “It is shocking. St Stephen’s is a community built on love and prayers and grace and they are going to come together,” she said. “People of all faiths are coming together to pray to hope for healing.” “We are praying for everyone that is involved,” she said. “You don’t think it’s going to happen here, and it’s scary,” she added.

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St Stephen's Episcopal Church, Vestavia Hills (ssechurch.org)

Church rector Rev John Burruss posted a video on Facebook saying he was “deeply moved” by expressions of support and love from all over the country, and thanked the clergy and first responders. Burrus said that he was working to get back to Alabama Thursday. He appeared to hold back tears at times and asked for prayers. “That is what we do as people of faith: We come together in the midst of life and death,” he said.

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According to the church's website, there was a potluck scheduled between 5 and 7 pm Thursday, June 16. Hudlow asked the community to come together in support of the victims and their loved ones. "We're Episcopalians; we believe in Jesus and we believe that prayer helps," Hudlow said. "Currently we are praying for healing and safety for all those that have been impacted and affected."

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Vestavia Hills is a city of around 39,000, located to the southeast of Birmingham. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she was praying for the victims and community. “We want to offer our prayers for the victim’s family, the injured, and the entire church community,” Ivey said. “I am glad to hear the shooter is in custody. This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city, or anywhere.”

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