A gunman opened fire inside a church near Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday, killing two parishioners before being fatally shot by a member of the church’s volunteer security team, authorities said.
People were gathered inside West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, a city of about 16,000, when the gunman entered just before 11 a.m. and began to open fire, White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon.
The shooter died at the scene while one victim died en route to a hospital. A third person died in the hospital Sunday evening, Bevering said.
“Unfortunately this country has seen so many of these that we’ve gotten used to it at this point and it’s tragic,” Jeoff Williams, a Texas Department of Public Safety regional director, said at the press conference.
Jack Cummings, a minister at the church, said the church’s security team ― comprised of churchgoers who are licensed to carry firearms ― had noticed the gunman “acting suspiciously” before the attack. Officials said the violence was over within seconds thanks to the quick action of the security volunteers.
“They saved a lot of lives today because this thing would have been a massacre otherwise,” Cummings told The New York Times.
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, a Republican, praised the armed parishioners who stood up and fought back.
“Today evil walked boldly among us but let me remind you, good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse,” Waybourn said at the presser.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott described the incident as an “evil act of violence.”
“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,” he said.
The gunman, who was described as wearing a large coat, reportedly stood up during the service, pulled out a gun and appeared to fire twice before someone shot back at them.
A witness, speaking to CBS 11 News, said the gunman walked up to a server during communion and opened fire with a shotgun.
A since-removed livestream of the morning church service reportedly captured the deadly attack, according to local station WFAA.
This story has been updated with details about the church’s volunteer security team.