As authorities in Texas identified the man suspected of killing two people at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, near Forth Worth, Donald Trump and other officials praised Jack Wilson, a former police research and firearms instructor.
“Our prayers are with the families of the victims and the congregation of yesterday’s church attack,” said the president.
‘It was over in 6 seconds thanks to the brave parishioners who acted to protect 242 fellow worshippers. Lives were saved by these heroes, and Texas laws allowing them to carry arms.”
Officials said Mr Wilson fired a single shot, putting a quick end to the the attack, which was launched as the church live streamed the service, and up 240 members of the congregation watched in horror.
“The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church,” Mr Wilson, head of the church’s security team, wrote on Facebook after the incident.
“I’m thankful to GOD that I have been blessed with the ability and desire to serve him in the role of head of security at the church.”
On Monday, Mr Wilson spoke to reporters gathered outside his home, telling them the suspect first shot Richard White, one of the security guards, who has been keeping an eye on the man due to “some concerns about him”.
Mr Wilson said people had noticed the man had a fake beard and fake wig on, in addition to a long coat. When he opened fire, several people were between him and the suspect. People then ducked behind the pews.
“I had a clear shot and I was comfortable taking the shot,” Mr Wilson said, according to Fox News.
“You have to be prepared at all times, at all places. And that’s what I strive, that’s the way I teach, that’s the way I want people to understand if they are going to wear a firearm for personal protection….It can happen anytime, anywhere.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the dead suspect as Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43. His motive is under investigation, officials said. The department also identified the two victims as Anton Wallace, 64, of Fort Worth and Richard White, 67, of River Oaks.
Investigators searched Kinnunen’s home, where police said his department’s only contact with the suspected gunman was a couple traffic citations.
“He didn’t exist until yesterday,”said deputy police chief Charles Stewart, though media reports said there were other violations, including one from 2009 of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Plenty of people were quick to praise both Mr White and Mr Wilson as heroes, including Mr White’s daughter-in-law, Misty York White, who wrote on social media: “You stood up against evil and sacrificed your life.”
Texas officials also praised the state’s expansive firearms laws, that permit people to carry weapons in a variety of locations, including churches. The incident will be used as evidence for people such as Donald Trump who argue the only thing that can stop deadly firearms incident is a “good guy with a gun”.
Yet activists pointed out such incidents are rare. Data shows that in the majority of cases when a member of the public uses a weapon to try and stop a gunman, they end up injuring other innocent civilians.
Gun-regulation campaigner Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said on Twitter: “If more guns and fewer gun laws made Texas safer, it would be the safest state in the US. I
“Instead, it has high rates of gun suicide and homicide, and is home to 4 of the 10 deadliest mass shootings.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press