- Three people were killed in a shooting at a church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama on Thursday.
- A pastor said the gunman was thwarted by a churchgoer who hit the suspect with a folding chair.
- The suspect, identified by police as 70-year-old Robert Findlay Smith, had previously attended the church.
A churchgoer armed with a folding chair reportedly helped the suspect stop the shooting at the Alabama church that killed three people.
The suspect in the shooting at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, identified by police as 70-year-old Robert Findlay Smith, was charged with murder, The Associated Press reported.
Two victims of the shooting died at the scene, while a third was treated and later died at UAB hospital, Insider previously reported.
Doug Doug Carpenter, a pastor who served at St. Stephen’s until 2005, told the Associated Press that a churchgoer in his 70s accused Smith of a folding chair and disarmed him during the shooting.
“He hit him with a folding chair, wrestled him to the ground, took the gun from him and hit him in the head with his own gun,” said Carpenter, who told The AP he was not present during the shooting Thursday. but spoke to witnesses of the tragedy.
Captain Shane Ware of the Vestavia Hills Police Department said the unidentified churchgoer’s actions were “extremely critical in saving lives,” according to The AP.
“The person who restrained the suspect was a hero in my opinion,” Ware said.
A photo of Smith from the Jefferson County Jail showed a distinctive black eye and scratches on his face.
Carpenter described Smith as a loner who had previously attended church dinners like the one on Thursdays, but always sat alone. Carpenter told The AP that the shooting “makes no sense”.
“Why would a man who has been around for a while suddenly decide that he was going to dinner and kill someone?” said Carpenter. “People tried to talk to him, and he was a little distant and very much a loner.”
Carpenter told The AP that Walter Rainey, one of the victims of the shooting, invited Smith to sit at his table for dinner, and Rainey’s wife offered to make a plate for Smith, who declined.
“Linda Rainey said he had no food, and she offered to make him a plate, and he turned it down,” Carpenter told The AP.
Shortly after, the suspect opened fire and shot Walter Rainey and two others dead. Rainey, 84, died in church in his wife’s arms, according to The AP.
Another victim, 75-year-old Sarah Yeager, died in hospital. A third victim, 84, died Friday, but police declined to release her name at her family’s request, The AP reported.
The shooting followed a spate of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, which rekindled the gun control conversation.