VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. — A gunman opened fire at a potluck dinner inside a suburban Alabama church, killing two members and wounding a third before being taken into custody, authorities said.
Emergency dispatchers got a call about 6:20 p.m. Thursday reporting an active shooter at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills, said Police Capt. Shane Ware.
Ware announced that a suspect was taken into custody and that the injured victim was currently being treated in a hospital. Police refused to provide details about the attack or give any information on suspects or victims. A second briefing was scheduled for Friday.
The event was a “Boomers Potluck” gathering inside the church, according to messages posted on the church’s Facebook page by pastor the Rev. John Burruss. According to him, he was on a pilgrimage to Greece with some friends and wanted to return to Alabama.
“More than anything, I ask your prayers for our community, especially those who are injured and the families of the deceased. These are the pillars of our community, and I cannot begin to fathom how painful this is for our entire church, and the larger community,” he wrote.
The Rev. Rebecca Bridges, the church’s associate rector, led an online prayer service on the church’s Facebook page Friday morning. She prayed not only for the victims and church members who witnessed the shooting, but also “for the person who perpetrated the shooting.”
“We pray that you will work in that person’s heart,” Bridges said. “And we pray that you will help us to forgive.”
Bridges, who is currently in London, alluded to other recent mass shootings as she prayed that elected officials in Washington and Alabama “will see what has happened at St. Stephens and Uvalde and Buffalo and in so many other places and their hearts will be changed, minds will be opened.”
“And that our culture will change and that our laws will change in ways that will protect all of us,” she added.
Numerous high-profile shootings occurred in May/June. There was an attack by racial extremists on May 14, which resulted in the deaths of 10 Blacks at a Buffalo grocery store. In Texas, 19 elementary students and two adult victims were killed by a gunman at Uvalde Elementary School.
Continue reading: Fatima Morrell was a Buffalo student who helped them heal after a shooting. She taught violence prevention and anti-racism to students.
Thursday’s shooting happened just over a month after one person was killed and five injured when a man opened fire on Taiwanese parishioners at a church in Southern California. Nearly seven years ago, nine people were murdered by an avowed white extremist at Emanuel AME Church Charleston, South Carolina.
U.S. Agents, FBI The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives were present at the scene. They maintained a cordon around the area Friday, with yellow tape and flashing lights blocking access to the church.
After the shooting ended, many people congregated and prayed in close proximity.
“It is shocking. Saint Stephen’s is a community built on love and prayers and grace and they are going to come together,” the Rev. Kelley Hudlow was an Episcopal priest serving the Diocese of Alabama. She spoke out to WBRC. “People of all faiths are coming together to pray to hope for healing.”
She shared that support messages came in from across the U.S. as well as around the world. “We need everybody out there. Pray, think, meditate and send love to this community because we are going to need all of it,” she said.
On Saturday, hundreds of protestors gathered at Washington, D.C.’s National Mall to renew their calls for tighter gun control. Witnesses to gun violence and mass shootings have lobbied lawmakers and presented evidence on Capitol Hill this month.
Continue reading: Biden fears another cycle of inaction regarding guns after Uvalde
Alabama Gov. Late Thursday, Kay Ivey released a statement in which she lamented what she described as a shocking and tragic loss. Although she said she was glad to hear the suspect was in custody, she wrote: “This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city or anywhere.”
Vestavia Hills is a residential community just southeast of Birmingham, one of Alabama’s two most populous cities.
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