The death toll in the Alabama church shooting has risen to three and the fatalities have been identified.
On Thursday evening, a 71-year-old gunman opened fire at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Birmingham, and fatally shot three congregators in the process.
Following the massacre – which took place during the ‘Boomers’ Potluck’ get-together – the three victims were identified as Walter ‘Bart’ Rainey, 84, Jane Pounds, 84, and Sarah Yeager, 75.
A photo of Mr. Rainey alongside his wife, Linda, has since emerged.
According to the police, the gunman was a 71-year-old Caucasian. His identity and motives remain a mystery as of this writing.
The police also revealed that the suspect used his concealed pistol to commit the killings about an hour into the event that was intended to bring the community together.
“He was the nicest gentleman anyone could have met,” Brian Cocke, Walter’s neighbor, told AL.com after the deadly incident.
He went on to claim that Walter and Linda were “absolutely wonderful neighbors.”
“You always hear about these things and think of how tragic the situation is, but it’s a whole different level when it turns out it was someone you knew. Just simply unbelievable,” Cocke added in a tribute to his friend on Facebook.
While the police provided some additional information about the shooting in a Friday press conference, the public is still waiting for the authorities to confirm the gunman’s identity.
“Our investigation, while ongoing, has revealed that an occasional attendee of the church that I will only identify as a white male aged 71 was at the dinner,” Vestavia Hills Police Captain Shane Ware told the reporters.
“At some point he produced a concealed handgun and began shooting striking the three victims.”
While Rainey died on the scene, Yeager and Pounds succumbed to their injuries while receiving medical care.
As Ware also pointed out, the death toll could have been much higher if not for the brave actions of congregator Jim Musgrove who struck the gunman on the back with a chair.
“Another attendee at the event subdued the suspect and held him down until law enforcement arrived,” the police captain added as he called Musgrove a “hero” who saved countless lives.
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