Prayer vigils were planned Friday after a shooting left two people dead and one injured at an episcopal church outside Birmingham, Alabama.
Police had not publicly identified the motive or suspected gunman, who was arrested Thursday, said Capt. Shane Ware of the Vestavia Hills Police Department.
The shooting took place at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, just south of Birmingham.
The shooting came on the eve of Friday’s seventh anniversary of a massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, when a white supremacist gunned down nine Black parishioners during a Bible study.
It also comes about a month after one person was killed and five injured in a shooting at a Southern California church that authorities called a “hate incident” against the Taiwanese community.
Thursday’s shooting in Birmingham is among a rash of recent high-profile shootings nationwide, including when four people were killed at an Oklahoma hospital; when 19 children and two teachers were gunned down at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas; and when 10 Black people were killed in a shooting at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.
What happened in Vestavia Hills?
Officers responded to active shooter reports at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, around 6:22 p.m. Thursday, Ware said at a news conference.
Police believe a lone gunman entered a small church meeting and began shooting, Ware said, adding that the suspect was in custody and there were no additional threats to the community.
Who is the suspect?
Authorities have not publicly identified the suspect who was in custody Thursday or said if investigators had determined a motive.
The FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco are assisting in the investigation, Ware said.
Who were the victims?
Authorities did not release the identities of the victims or the condition of the victim who was injured in the shooting.
Reeling from the shooting, community members gathered Thursday for a prayer vigil to honor the victims of the shooting, a local ABC News channel reported. In St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church’s parking lot, they joined hands and formed a circle as they prayed.
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“I am so sad I’m so prayerful for the families that was affected by this,” Lynda Montana, who has been a member of the church for 20 years, told the news station. “I think our whole church family will be affected by this I’m just in shock and disbelief.”
Multiple prayer vigils are planned for Friday at the church, the station reported.
Where did the shooting take place?
The shooting took place during a small group gathering at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. The church’s website listed a “Boomers Potluck” for Thursday night.
Vestavia Hills is a suburb of about 40,000 residents and is located about seven miles south of Birmingham, one of Alabama’s two most populous cities.
Church leaders, officials react to shooting
The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, who works in the office of Bishop Glenda Curry of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, told WBRC-TV that the shooting left the church stunned. Still, she said community members are supporting each other through the loss.
“Saint Stephen’s is a community built on love and prayers and grace and they are going to come together,” Hudlow told the station. “People of all faiths are coming together to pray to hope for healing.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey offered prayers to the victims and the community in a statement Thursday.
“This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city or anywhere,” she said.
Contributing: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY
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