A SUSPECT has been charged with capital murder in connection with the deaths of three people at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Thursday.
Robert Findlay Smith, 70, is currently in custody and being held without bail at the Jefferson County Jail.
District Attorney Danny Carr issued the murder warrants Friday afternoon following the deaths of Walter Rainey, Sarah Yeager and Jane Pounds.
The three were shot at the church, Vestavia Hills Police officials said.
Rainey, 84, was pronounced dead at the scene while the other two victims were taken to hospital.
Yeager, 75, died shortly after arriving at the hospital for treatment.
The shooting’s third victim, Jane Pounds, 84, died on Friday, according to law enforcement.
Smith allegedly entered the church and fired shots during a potluck dinner.
He had occasionally attended church services in the past, but no motive has been released so far.
Reverend Doug Carpenter, who founded the church, said another church member subdued the shooter by hitting him with a chair and grabbing the gun, according to local newspaper AL.com.
“It was extremely important to save lives,” said Shane Ware, Vestavia Hills Police Captain.
“In my opinion he’s a hero,” he added of the church member.
Court records obtained by AL.com showed Smith was charged with multiple drunk driving charges but had no prior convictions related to violent crimes.
In 2005, he was charged with possession of a pistol while intoxicated, but the charges were later dropped.
Public records show Smith working from home as a licensed arms dealer.
His store is called Original Magazines 2.
AL.com reports that Smith was known to police, who reportedly knew his address and the vehicle he was driving.
SHOOTING AT THE POTLUCK EVENT
The shooter, who came to the church at 6:22 p.m., interrupted a church event.
People were enjoying a “boomer’s potluck” when the gunfire broke out.
Smith was reportedly sitting alone at the event and, according to Teverend, declined an invitation from a longtime church member to sit at a table.
“At one point he pulled out a concealed pistol and started shooting, beating the three victims,” the police captain said.
“The suspect has previously attended services at this church, but as to the motive behind it, many authorities are still investigating.
“It would not be appropriate for me to speculate.”
“SHOCKING AND TRAGICAL”
Rev. Kelley Hudlow, a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, described the horrifying scene and its aftermath.
“That happens in other places. They just don’t think it’s going to happen here in the Birmingham area,” Hudlow said.
“And so it’s shocking.”
Hudlow also urged the community to come together during the difficult time.
“We are connected to a network of churches around the world,” she said.
“And so we get messages from people from across the United States and around the world who are praying for this community tonight,” Hudlow told CBS News.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey condemned the shooting in a statement, calling it “shocking and tragic” while saying it shouldn’t happen anywhere.
Reactions came as a heartbreaking photo showed a priest running from the scene as three people were gunned down.
On Thursday evening, a group held a prayer circle in the church parking lot.
“You see healing when these people stand together,” said WBRC host Jonathan Hardison.
The FBI, US Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives are assisting local authorities in the investigation.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5592618/vestavia-hills-shooter-charged-robert-findlay-smith/ Horrifying details about Vestavia Hills church ‘gunman’ Robert Smith as it’s revealed he went to church before he ‘killed 3’