Ns News Online Desk: Two people were killed and another person was injured Thursday in a shooting at a small group church meeting in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, police said. A suspect, who was not identified publicly, is in custody, said Capt. Shane Ware with the Vestavia Hills Police Department. The surviving victim is being treated at a hospital for undisclosed injuries, he said.
The shooting at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills was reported around 6:22 p.m. local time, according to Ware.
According to the church calendar, an event called the “Boomers Potluck” was scheduled at the same time the shooting happened, but it wasn’t clear from the media briefing whether the violence occurred there. It’s also unclear how many people were at the event when the shots were fired.
Agents with the FBI, US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF) were dispatched to the scene, Ware noted. He didn’t take questions at any of the three media briefings on the shooting and urged anyone with additional information to contact the Vestavia Hills Police Department.
Rev. Kelley Hudlow, missioner for clergy formation for the Diocese of Alabama, told CNN affiliate WVTM the community needs to be lifted up in healing through prayer and unity.
“Currently we are praying for healing and safety for all those who have been impacted and affected, and also knowing this is a traumatic thing that has happened to our community, not just our church, but this community here,” Hudlow said. “What we need is for this community to do what it’s really good at, which is coming together to take of each other.”
Church members held hands in a circle and prayed in a nearby parking lot, with several people appearing distressed by what happened, CNN affiliate WBRC reported.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey sent her condolences.
“I am glad to hear the shooter is in custody,” Ivey said. “This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city, or anywhere. We continue to closely monitor the situation.”
The shooting is the latest in a house of worship amid a national reckoning on firearms and their availability. Last month, six people were shot, one fatally, at a Taiwanese church service in Southern California.
Mass shootings at an an elementary school in South Texas that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers and at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in a racist attack on the Black community that killed 10 people have brought increased political attention in the last several weeks toward gun violence.
In the wake of such vicious attacks, a bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement on principle for gun safety legislation that aims to address mental health resources, school safety and access to firearms.