A 71-Year-Old Man Allegedly Shot Up A Church In Alabama, Killing 3 People

Police declined to comment on a possible motive, but said the suspect occasionally attended services at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

Butch Dill / AP

Church members console each other after a shooting at the St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

Continuing a string of deadly gun violence incidents in recent weeks, a man opened fire on an Alabama church on Thursday evening, killing three people.

The shooting happened during a "Boomers Potluck" event at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, a city outside of Birmingham.

An 81-year-old man, Walter Rainey, died at the scene. Sarah Yeager, 75, later died at a hospital. The third victim, an 84-year-old woman whose name her family declined to release, died on Friday afternoon at a hospital, police announced.

The shooting suspect, identified as a 71-year-old white male, attended the 5 p.m. dinner at the church. Rev. Doug Carpenter, the church's founder, told AL.com that the suspect declined to sit at one of the tables when a church member invited him to do so, and instead sat alone.

"At some point, he produced a handgun and began shooting, striking three victims," police Capt. Shane Ware said at a news conference Friday.

Law enforcement officers received calls about an active shooter at the church at around 6:20 p.m.

Another attendee "subdued" the suspect during the shooting and held him down until law enforcement arrived, Ware said, calling the person a "hero."

The suspect was taken into custody on Thursday evening. Ware said he was being held at the Vestavia Hills Police Department pending capital murder charges.

Ware declined to comment on a possible motive, but said the suspect, who acted alone, occasionally attended services at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

The church held a prayer vigil at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Friday morning.

"[T]wo very beloved members of our Saint Stephen’s community have died in the most senseless and tragic circumstances, a shooting in our own church building. Another remains hospitalized," one of St. Stephen's clergy members wrote in a post. "Still others who were present are now carrying the invisible, lasting wounds of trauma. All who knew them and who are at all connected with our church are impacted in innumerable ways."

The shooting is the latest in a series of devastating gun violence events in the US. On May 14, a white gunman attacked a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people. The next day, a shooter opened fire on Taiwanese congregants in a church in Laguna Beach, California, killing one person and injuring five others. On May 24, a gunman shot up an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and 2 adults. Then, over Memorial Day Weekend, more than 300 shooting incidents took place, and over 130 people were shot and killed. Days later, three people were killed when a shooter opened fire at a Maryland factory. Earlier this month, four people were killed in a shooting at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

There were many more shootings in between each of these incidents. Gun violence in the US is a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of June 17, at least 20,104 people have died from gun violence this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.