Authorities said a shooting erupted Thursday evening inside the St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, a suburb of Birmingham. Image courtesy of Google Maps
June 16 (UPI) -- A gunman opened fire on a group people holding a meeting inside an Alabama church Thursday evening, killing two and wounding a third, authorities said.
The shooting occurred before 6:30 p.m. at the St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, a suburb of Birmingham. The gunman was in police custody, authorities said.
It was originally reported that only one person had died and two shooting victims were being treated at a local hospital.
Vestavia Hills police Capt. Shane Ware updated the death toll Thursday night during a press conference in which he said a lone gunman "entered a small group church meeting and began shooting."
"Three people were shot, two people are deceased. One person is being treated for an unknown injury at a local hospital," he said.
Neither the victims nor the suspected gunman were identified.
Ware told reporters during an earlier briefing that several law enforcement agencies and fire departments were deployed to the scene after his department received a call concerning an "active shooter" inside the church.
"I do want to reiterate to you that the suspect involved in this event is in custody," he said.
Ware offered prayers on behalf of the police department for the families of the victims and those in the community affected by the shooting.
Vestavia Hills Mayor Ashley Curry also issued a statement of condolences.
"With the tragic news that has broken this evening, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims of this evening's shooting at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church," he said.
Republican Rep. Gary Palmer, whose district encompasses Vestavia Hills, tweeted his staff is "closely monitoring the situation."
According to the church's website, the facility was hosting "Boomers Potluck" when the shooting began.
St. Stephen's episcopal Church Rector, Rev. John Burruss, in Athens, Greece, for a church pilgrimage, said in a video message that he was working to return in the wake of the shooting.
"In the coming days and the coming hours we'll have announcements about updates on the ways to pray and to gather," he said. "That is what we do as people of faith -- we come together in the midst of life and death."
The shooting follows a spate of high-profile mass shootings across the United States that have left scores dead, including 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school late last month.
There have also been at least two recent church shootings.
In mid-May, one person was killed and five others were injured when David Chou, a 68-year-old man from Las Vegas, opened fire on an Orange County, Calif., Taiwanese Presbyterian church.
In early June, a man died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after fatally shooting two people at an Ames, Iowa, church.
According to The Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit group that tallies gun violence in the country, there have been 231 mass shootings so far this year.