A 70-year-old man shot and killed three people at a church dinner in Alabama, police said.
Stephen’s Episcopal Church pulled out a gun and killed three of those present, one of whom died in his wife’s arms as she whispered words of love in his ear, officials said.
A church member rushed toward the gunman, beat him with a chair, and held him until the police arrived, a former priest said.
The Jefferson County District Attorney said the suspect, Robert Findlay Smith, was charged with premeditated murder on Friday.
The accident in a wealthy Birmingham suburb stunned a community known for its family-centric lifestyle. It has also deepened anxiety in a state still reeling from recent gun attacks on a school in Texas, a grocery store in New York and another church in California.
Reverend Doug Carpenter, St. Stephen’s pastor for three decades, said the three victims were members who attended the church’s monthly dinner.
Another member, Carpenter said, a man in his 70s, grabbed a chair and attacked the shooter.
“He hit him with a folding chair, wrestled him to the ground, took his pistol and hit him in the head with his pistol,” he said.
Capt. Shane Weir said church members held the suspect in custody until police arrived. Police footage showed Smith suffering from blackening of his left eye and cuts to his nose and forehead.
“The person who defeated the suspect was a hero in my opinion,” Ware said at a news conference on Friday, adding that the work was “crucial to saving lives.”
Thursday’s shooting came just over a month after one person was killed and five wounded when a man opened fire on Taiwanese parishioners at a Southern California church.
It also came nearly seven years after the day a self-proclaimed white supremacist killed nine people while studying the Bible at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
A message from St Stephens said Sunday mass would be held, adding: “We will gather at the table that has taught many that love always explodes in this world, no matter what we experience, whether it be doubt, anger, loss, grief or death, but also Joy and life.”