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Two parishioners, suspect dead in church shooting near Fort Worth

By Allen Cone
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Two parishioners, suspect dead in church shooting near Fort Worth
West Freeway Church is located in White Settlement, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. Google satellite screenshot

Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A lone gunman opened fire during a Sunday morning service at a Christian church in a northwest suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, killing two parishioners before he was shot dead inside the sanctuary by voluntary security congregrants.

White Settlement police were dispatched at 9:57 a.m. to a shooting at the West Freeway Church, The Dallas Morning News reported. White Settlement, which received its name in the 1800s by Native Americans after non-Indigenous families began to settle in the area, is a town in Tarrant County with a population of 16,116, according to the 2010 census.

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"Unfortunately this country has seen so many of these that we've actually gotten used to them at this point," Jeff Williams, a regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference. "I would like to point out that we have a couple of heroic parishioners who stopped short of anything you can even imagine and saved countless lives, our hearts are going out to them and their families as well."

The shooting lasted six seconds.

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Sunday's service, which had about 250 parishioners, was live streamed on YouTube but the video that showed the shooting has since been made private.

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A congregant who was a member of the security force died, Mike Tinius, a church elder, told The New York Times. He "was trying to do what he needed to do to protect the rest of us," Tinius said. "It's extremely upsetting to see anyone committing violence."

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Two people died at the scene. Paramedics resuscitated the third person, who went into cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital and later died, officials said at an evening news conference. The deceased, including the shooter, have not been identified.

Two other people were treated and released at the scene for minor injuries when they hit their heads while ducking for cover, Trusty said.

Fort Worth Fire Department sent out an "active threat" assignment about 11:30 a.m. to assist White Settlement police and fire. Also assisting are agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

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The gunman walked up to a server during communion with a shotgun and then opened fire, Isabel Arreola told KTVT-TV.

"It was the most scariest thing. You feel like your life is flashing before you. I was so worried about my little one," Arreola said.

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Jack Cummings, a minister at the church, said the volunteer security team was formed 10 years ago because "people go into schools and shoot people."

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A new Texas law allowing worshippers to carry guns in religious locations went in to effect in September.

"Our hearts go out to the victims and families of those killed in the evil act of violence that occurred at the West Freeway Church of Christ," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "Places of worship are meant to be sacred, and I am grateful for the church members who acted quickly to take down the shooter and help prevent further loss of life."

Two years ago, Devin Kellen opened fire inside another Texas church, killing 26 people and wounding more than 20 others before he shot himself to death. It occurred at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, which is 280 miles south of Fort Worth.

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