Vestavia Hills, AL – Two people were murdered and one other victim suffered severe injuries after a gunman opened fire during a “Boomers Potluck” dinner at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Thursday night, according to police.
The Vestavia Hills Police Department (VHPD) and Vestavia Hills Fire Department were dispatched to the church at 3775 Crosshaven Drive for a report of an “active shooter” at approximately 6:22 p.m. on June 16, the department said in a press release.
NHPD Captain Shane Ware said during a press conference on Friday morning that a small group meeting known as a “Boomer’s Potluck” was taking place at the church when a 71-year-old “occasional attendee” of the church “produced a handgun and began shooting.”
Capt. Ware said that another person attending the potluck heroically stopped the gunman from harming even more victims during the attack.
“Another attendee at the event subdued the suspect and held him down” until police arrived, the captain said on Friday morning. “It was extremely critical in saving lives.”
Police arrived to find three people suffering from gunshot wounds.
Walter Rainey, 84, succumbed to his wounds at the scene.
Sarah Yeager, 75, was rushed to UAB Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The third victim, an 84-year-old woman, remained hospitalized on Friday morning, The Birmingham News reported.
Two people were shot and killed and one injured Thursday evening at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, The Vestavia Hills Police Department said.
Police were alerted to the incident at 3775 Crosshaven Drive around 6:22 p.m. pic.twitter.com/DPAnmaMzSn
— George Robert (@GVitkosPress) June 17, 2022
Capt. Ware said it is unknown how many people were inside the church at the time of the shooting.
He said the suspect had previously attended services there, but that investigators are still looking into the motive.
The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office is expected to file capital murder charges against the gunman, at which point his name will be released, Capt. Ware told reporters.
“The suspect acted alone,” he added. “There is no threat to the community.”
The investigation into the fatal shooting remained ongoing on Monday morning.
I’m a block down From the church shooting in Vestavia Hills AL.
“I’m overwhelmed. And saddened. I’ve dealt with a lot of sadness but never anything like this. Just unprovoked:” Huey Gardner, rector at St Mary’s on the Highlands, a sister church. pic.twitter.com/2h5shqqmAb
— Ruth Serven Smith (@RuthServenSmith) June 17, 2022
Reverend Doug Carpenter told The Birmingham News that approximately two dozen church members were present at the time of the attack.
Carpenter said that a man who called himself “Mr. Smith” was sitting alone during the potluck gathering, so one of the other church members walked over to him and invited him to join him at another table.
He said the man declined the offer, then opened fire on the group a short while later.
According to Captain Shane Ware, an occasional attendee at the church released a hand gun and let fire instead the church. The suspect acted alone. He is currently being held at the Vestavia Hills City Jail. @CBS_42 pic.twitter.com/yTei8y4h7i
— Courtney Chandler (@CChandlerLiveTV) June 17, 2022
According to Carpenter, “Mr. Smith” claimed he used to attend the church, but no one at the gathering knew who he was.
“We’re trying to figure out who he is,” the reverend told The Birmingham News.
Two people were killed and one person was injured after someone came into St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills and starting shooting yesterday evening. Here are some photos from the scene last night. Police are expected to give an update in about a half hour. @abc3340 pic.twitter.com/khnyBo7IsC
— Valerie Bell (@vbell_reports) June 17, 2022
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Reverend John Burruss released a statement saying the congregation’s “hearts are broken from the horrible tragedy” that occurred Thursday night.
“More than anything, I ask your prayers for our community, especially those who are injured and the families of the deceased,” Burruss wrote. “These are the pillars of our community, and I cannot begin to fathom how painful this is for our entire church, and the larger community.”
Vestavia Hills Mayor Ashley Curry praised the law enforcement and medical personnel response to the “horrific act” during the press conference on Friday morning.
“Our police, with assistance from other law enforcement agencies, handled this crisis in an exemplary manner, and I am grateful for the mutual aid and cooperation between all the agencies involved,” Curry said. “Our prayers go out to the victims and the families affected by this senseless act of violence.”