WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — The gunman who opened fire at a Texas church on Sunday morning, killing two congregants before he was shot and killed by a member of the church’s volunteer security team, was a 43-year-old former drifter with an extensive criminal past, law enforcement authorities said on Monday.
The authorities identified the gunman as Keith Thomas Kinnunen and said he had used an address about six miles from the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, near Fort Worth, where the shooting took place.
According to court records, Mr. Kinnunen had a trail of criminal arrests across the country, including assault and disorderly conduct in Arizona and assault and battery in Oklahoma.
On Sunday, as a hushed congregation sat listening to the service with rapt attention, several leaning forward and with folded hands, Mr. Kinnunen stood up and fired a shotgun into the crowd.
Jack Wilson, the head of security at the church, shot and killed Mr. Kinnunen seconds later. Mr. Wilson later posted a message on Facebook saying that he had been put in a position he hoped no one would have to be in, “but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church.”
“Evil does exist in this world,” he added, “and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed.”
Mr. Kinnunen had sat with the parishioners before opening fire, striking Anton Wallace, 64, and Richard White, 67, both of the Fort Worth area. Both died at a nearby hospital, according to the state’s public safety department.
Mr. Kinnunen had been arrested a number of times in the Fort Worth area for charges that included aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Then in 2016, he was arrested in Linden, N.J., after police found him with a 12-gauge shotgun and rounds in the area of a Phillips 66 refinery, according to a news report in mycentraljersey.com at the time. The report said that he was traveling on a bicycle, asking about photographing the oil tank field at the refinery.
Mr. Kinnunen told the Linden police that he was traveling from Texas but homeless and that he took photos of interesting sites, the report said. –
Other offenses Mr. Kinnunen was charged with include speeding, theft, assault and disorderly conduct in Pima County, Ariz., between 2003 and 2014, petit larceny in Las Vegas in 2011, theft in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., in 2010, and felony charges of aggravated assault and battery in Grady County, Okla.
Mr. Kinnunen was confronted twice in 2011 by the police in Tuttle, Okla. In one case, a convenience store worker told officers that Mr. Kinnunen wrestled him to the ground and hit him repeatedly, causing a possible broken rib. According to a police report, Mr. Kinnunen was upset about being confronted for riding his motorcycle through the grass outside the store and damaging a sign.
In the other incident, a son of Mr. Kinnunen accused him of setting three small fires. In one case, the son said, Mr. Kinnunen siphoned gas from his motorcycle and used it to burn branches in the street. In another, officers wrote in their report that Mr. Kinnunen “soaked a football in lamp oil, then lit it on fire and played ‘fire football.’” The son told officers that he was afraid of Mr. Kinnunen.
On Monday, the glass doors to the church in White Settlement were locked as church leaders and congregation members huddled together, preparing to issue a public statement.
As he left the church to climb into his car, the church’s education minister, Jack Cummings, said his wife died recently after a long struggle with ovarian cancer, and after Sunday’s attack, he felt “numb.”
“I just lost my wife and now this,” he said.
About 250 people were inside the auditorium of the church on Sunday when the gunman began shooting just before communion.
Mr. Cummings said the gunman had drawn the attention of the church’s security team before the shooting. A member of the security team said that the shooter was wearing a fake beard, which is what tipped off security, according to a CBS News producer.
Church officials said the security team, made up of congregation members licensed to carry firearms, saved lives.
The debate about guns in church has played out at statehouses across the country.
In Missouri, State Representative Jered Taylor has introduced bills in recent years that would remove churches from the state’s list of gun-free zones, meaning people would be allowed to carry a weapon in church unless a sign was posted banning guns.
“Let’s give people the ability to protect their family members, their friends,” said Mr. Taylor, a Republican, “rather than leaving them defenseless or sitting ducks while they’re worshiping.”
The idea has been opposed by some religious groups in Missouri, including Roman Catholic leaders. Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis said last year that the bill then under consideration would “broaden Second Amendment rights at the expense of the First Amendment right of religious liberty,” according to an article by Religion News Service.
But Mr. Taylor, who plans to push the measure again in 2020, called the response by parishioners in Texas an example of how lives could be saved by having legally armed churchgoers.
“Had he been able to continue firing and no one been able to stop him, who knows how many people would have been killed?” Mr. Taylor said.
The shooting, which the authorities said lasted six seconds, was captured on video because the church regularly posts its services online.
In the video, the gunman stands up during a quiet moment and briefly talks with someone standing against a wall. He then begins firing. Congregants crouch down in their pews. After a third loud bang, the gunman slumps to the ground as people scream.
“He was immediately hit by one of our marksmen,” Mr. Cummings said. “The next thing I know, he was lying on the floor.”
Dave Montgomery reported from White Settlement, Texas. Anemona Hartecollis reported from New York, and Mitch Smith reported from Chicago. Mihir Zaveri contributed reporting from New York, and Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.
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