Update: This piece has been updated to include more information on the gunman.
On the last Sunday of 2019, a man entered into the sanctuary of the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, pulled out a shotgun, and began firing.
He fired two shots killing two church members.
Within mere seconds, a nearby congregant fired at the madman with a handgun he was carrying.
In the midst of terrified screams, at least three other parishioners surrounded the man with firearms trained on him.
The congregant who shot the gunman is reportedly Jack Wilson.
Wilson previously owned a firearms training business and is currently running for Hood County Commissioner in the third precinct.
During press conferences on Sunday afternoon, White Settlement Police Chief JP Bevering confirmed that the two victims had passed away and that their murderer died at the scene.
“Today evil walked boldly among us,” said Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, “but let me remind you, good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse.”
Before the Texas state legislature passed a bill in 2017, churches would need to go through a burdensome and costly licensing process to have a coordinated security team.
While church-goers could carry their own firearms provided they were not prohibited on the premises, coordinating any sort of security without a license — armed or unarmed — was considered a felony.
Former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving), who introduced the amendment, told The Texan that the bill simply allowed churches to coordinate their own security volunteers without the regulatory oversight from the state.
Matt DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI office in Dallas, told reporters that the gunman had been identified and said he was “relatively transient, but has roots to the area.”
He also said that the murderer had been involved with law enforcement before, having been arrested in multiple municipalities, but was not put on any watchlists.
Texas police records indicate that the gunman had been arrested twice by the Fort Worth Police Department: once in 2008 for assault with a deadly weapon and again in 2013 for theft.
Other reports indicate that the gunman had previously been arrested in Arizona, Oklahoma, and New Jersey, including an arrest for domestic violence.
DeSarno declined to release any more information about him.
“We lost two great men today, but it could have been a lot worse,” said Britt Farmer, the head pastor of the church, “and I am thankful that our government has allowed us to protect ourselves.”
“We like to say we’re a place you and your family can call home,” said the pastor. “Today our home was invaded by evil. The sad thing is it happens all the time as far as evil is concerned. But I know two men right now that are better off than any of us are. And I hope and pray that not only will we survive this — I know we will — but that in some way we might be a beacon to those who don’t know what to do. Because today we proved that not only can we be God-loving, God-fearing people, but we can protect each other as well.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.