Texas church shooting gunman grew angry in past over money requests, visited multiple times, minister says
The man behind the deadly church shooting in Texas on Sunday had visited the congregation several times before, according to the church’s senior minister, who noted the man received food but would get angry when he wasn’t given cash.
As authorities said Kinnunen’s motive remained under investigation, the church’s senior minister, Britt Farmer, told The Christian Chronicle he recognized the 43-year-old after seeing a photo of him without the disguise.
“We’ve helped him on several occasions with food,” Farmer told the Chronicle. “He gets mad when we won’t give him cash. He’s been here on multiple occasions.”
Kinnunen, who died in the shooting, had a lengthy criminal history, including several arrests in North Texas and other states.
This June 16, 2015, photo provided by the River Oaks Police Department, in Texas, shows Keith Thomas Kinnunen. (River Oaks Police Department via AP)
Court records obtained by FOX4 showed that the 43-year-old was arrested in 2009 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and in 2013 for theft of property. In another arrest in 2011 in Oklahoma, Kinnunen faced arson charges when he was arrested after purchasing “lamp oil and tampons” then setting them on fire in a cotton field, according to documents obtained by FOX4.
At the time of his arrest in Oklahoma, a family member told police that Kinnunen also “soaked a football in lamp oil, then lit it on fire and played ‘fire football.’”
The shooting on Sunday lasted only seconds before Jack Wilson, the head of the church’s volunteer security team and a firearms instructor, fatally shot Kinnunen. A livestream of the church service showed the gunman getting up from a pew and talking to someone at the back of the church before pulling out a gun and opening fire.
In this still frame from livestreamed video provided by law enforcement, churchgoers take cover while a congregant armed with a handgun, top left, engages a man who opened fire, near top center just right of windows, during a service at West Freeway Church of Christ, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas. (West Freeway Church of Christ/Courtesy of Law Enforcement via AP)
“The only clear shot I had was his head because I still had people in the pews that were not all the way down as low as they could. That was my one shot,” Wilson told reporters outside his home in nearby Granbury on Monday.
Within six seconds, the gunman was down, bleeding “profusely” from his head after Wilson fired one round. He told reporters on Monday he then pulled the shotgun away from the man’s body as he was “twitching” and stood over him in case the shooter tried to get up, which he did not.
Jack Wilson, 71, poses for a photo at a firing range outside his home in Granbury, Texas, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg)
“You have to be prepared at all times, at all places,” he said Monday. “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 for themselves, or family, or anyone else they need to be aware that it can happen anytime, anywhere.”
Another minister at the church, Jack Cummings, praised Wilson’s actions on Monday in an interview with FOX29.
“Our hero was our head of security,” he told the television station.
Cummings said the shooting happened 40 feet away from him, and he dropped his communion tray as he ran over to see how the victims were.
“We bear no ill will toward the individual, his family,” he told FOX29. “We pray for the best for all of them.”
The actions of Wilson and other armed churchgoers have drawn praise from some Texas lawmakers and gun-rights advocates. Texas officials hailed the state’s gun laws, including a measure enacted this year that affirmed the right of licensed handgun holders to carry a weapon inside places of worship unless a facility bans them.
In an exclusive interview Monday night on “The Story,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told Fox News he hopes the gun law will be a model for other churches and states.
“This [law] worked,” Paxton said in a “The Story” exclusive. “We cannot stop every incident, and we can’t change the fact that there are people who are mentally ill.”
President Trump tweeted Monday night and Tuesday morning about the attack, both times highlighting the role of armed citizens in stopping the shooter.
“Armed congregants quickly stopped a crazed church shooter in Texas,” the president tweeted Tuesday morning. “If it were not for the fact that there were people inside of the church that were both armed, and highly proficient in using their weapon, the end result would have been catastrophic. A big THANK YOU to them!”
Fox News’ Charles Creitz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.