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Gunman fatally shot 2 in Texas church before parishioners returned fire, authorities say

John Richardson described the Dec. 29 shooting inside West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Tex., that left two people dead. (Video: WFAA)

A gunman opened fire in a church in White Settlement, Tex., on Sunday, killing two parishioners, according to authorities, who said they are still trying to determine a motive in the attack.

Police said they received a call shortly before 10 a.m. local time about gunshots at the West Freeway Church of Christ, in a suburb a less than an hour from downtown Fort Worth. After the suspect entered the church and fired a weapon, “a couple of members of the church returned fire,” killing the alleged shooter, state officials said at a news conference.

Local news media reported that the attack occurred during the church’s Sunday service, and that the incident may have been live-streamed on its website. Authorities did not address that report or release the name of the alleged shooter, but J.P. Bevering, the chief of police in White Settlement, said there is “no ongoing threat” to the public.

Mike Drivdahl, the public information officer at the Fort Worth Fire Department, said earlier Sunday it is unclear what prompted the attack in the first place.

“As far as the shooter, the motive, and everything like that,” Drivdahl said during a news conference, “we don’t have this at this time.”

Top state officials pledged their support immediately after the attack. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) condemned the “evil act of violence” in a statement, adding: “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.”

The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton (R), said his office “will assist in any way needed.”

The incident in White Settlement — at a church that describes itself as one that “loves serving others while serving God” — marks the latest high-profile attack involving a place of worship in the United States, after deadly shootings at a Baptist church near San Antonio in 2017, a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, and another in California this year.

A gunman opened fire at a church in White Settlement, Tex., killing two parishioners on Dec. 29. (Video: Reuters)

There have been more than 400 mass shootings in the country in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines such incidents as those in which at least four people are shot. Roughly 30 such attacks have occurred in Texas, according to the archive, including one in El Paso earlier this year that left 22 dead.

In recent years, Texas lawmakers have relaxed some of the state’s gun regulations. New laws that took effect in 2019 allow Texans with concealed-carry permits to bring guns to places of worship unless a sign is posted prohibiting it.

State authorities said Sunday they are working with the FBI as part of their investigation into the shooting in White Settlement.

“Unfortunately, this country has seen so many of these that we’ve actually gotten used to it at this point,” said Jeoff Williams, the regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. “It’s tragic, and it’s a terrible situation, especially during the holiday season.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the gunman fatally shot two people and injured one. The gunman fatally shot two people.

The scene after a deadly shooting at a Texas church

Dec. 29, 2019 | Dannetta Maldonado speaks to reporters while waiting for her parents, who are church members, after a shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Tex. The gunman was killed by armed members of the church after he opened fire during services. (Stewart F. House/AFP/Getty Images) (Stewart F. House/AFP/Getty Images)