Police praised the action of a ‘hero’ parishioner who held the gunman down until authorities arrived
A third person has died after a 71-year-old man opened fire at a church pot luck dinner in Alabama, authorities say.
Vestavia Hills Police Department announced on Friday an 84-year-old woman from Hoover, Alabama, had died after the gunman opened fire at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Birmingham, on Thursday evening.
Her name has not been released at the request of her family, police said in a statement.
Walter Rainey, 84, of Irondale and 75-year-old Sarah Yeager of Pelham were earlier named as the other two victims.
The suspect, described as an occasional church attendee, pulled out a handgun and opened fire at 6.22pm at a “Boomer’s Potluck” dinner hosted in the church’s Parish Hall, Capt. Shane Ware, of the Vestavia Hills Police Department, told a press conference on Friday.
A fifth person first subdued and held the gunman down until police arrived.
Mr Ware said the person was a “hero”, and had been “extremely critical in saving lives”.
Authorities are seeking to charge the suspect, whose name has not yet been released, with capital murder charges.
The police account was corroborated by church founder Rev Doug Carpenter, who told AL.com that a man calling himself Mr Smith had been sitting alone at the event when a fellow congregant invited him to their table.
Mr Carpenter said the man refused before pulling out a handgun and opening fire.
The shooter was subdued by church member Jim Musgrove, who struck him with a chair and wrestled the gun away.
Mr Carpenter said “Mr Smith” was not known to any of the roughly 25 people at the dinner, which began at 5pm, and that he had claimed to be a former member.
“We’re trying to figure out who he is,” the reverend told AL.com.
Officials have not officially confirmed the account given by Mr Carpenter.
In an initial statement, police said: “Three persons at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church were shot. Two victims are at a local hospital being treated. Sadly, one victim has died from their injuries.
“Again, the suspect is in custody. There is no additional threat to the community. The VHPD would like to express our gratitude to the numerous local and federal agencies that are providing assistance to us.”