Alabama shooting spree: 2 dead, 1 wounded; suspect detained

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (AP) — A lone gunman opened fire at a church in suburban Alabama on Thursday night, killing two people and wounding a third at a small group gathering before being taken into custody, authorities said.

The attack happened at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills, Police Captain Shane Ware said. He said dispatchers received a call around 6:20 p.m. reporting an active gunman there.

Ware said a suspect has been arrested and that there is “no threat to the community at this time.” Police refused to identify the suspect or victims, or give more details about the attack, and said another briefing was scheduled for Friday.

At a previous press conference, Ware said one person was killed and two others were hospitalized.

A “boomers potluck” was listed on the church’s website for Thursday night. “There will be no program, just eat and have time for community,” said the flyer.

Thursday’s shooting came just over a month after one person was killed and five others injured when a man opened fire on Taiwanese parishioners at a church in Southern California. It also comes exactly seven years to the day after an avowed white supremacist killed nine people during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

In Vestavia Hills, investigators remained at the scene hours after dark, with yellow police tape cordoning off the church complex and police and fire brigade vehicles flashing blue lights blocking the way to the church. The FBI, the US Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives dispatched agents to the scene.

Nearby people crowded and prayed.

Rev. Kelley Hudlow, an episcopal priest in the diocese of Alabama, told WBRC that the shooting stunned the church and community at large.

“It is shocking. Saint Stephen’s is a community built on love, prayer and grace, and they will come together,” she said in a live interview with the network. “People of all faiths come together to pray and hope for healing.”

She said messages of support were coming from all parts of the US and around the world. “We need everyone out there. Pray, think, meditate and send love to this community as we will need everything,” she said.

There were several high-profile shootings throughout May and June, beginning with a racist attack on May 14 that killed 10 black people at a convenience store in Buffalo, New York. The following week, a gunman massacred 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Thousands of people demonstrated across the United States and on the National Mall in Washington, DC on Saturday to renew their calls for stricter gun control measures. Survivors of mass shootings and other gun violence incidents lobbied lawmakers and testified on Capitol Hill earlier this month.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement late Thursday lamenting the shocking and tragic loss of life at the church. Though 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 town, or anywhere.”

Vestavia Hills is a residential community southeast of Birmingham, one of Alabama’s two most populous cities.

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