FORT WORTH, Tex. (NBCDFW) — Two parishioners and the gunman are dead after a shooting at a White Settlement church Sunday, officials say.
The shooting was reported at about 11 a.m. Sunday at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the 1900 block of South Las Vegas Trail.
During the service, a man opened fire and fatally shot two people. Two church members, who were members of the parish’s security team, returned fire and killed the shooter, White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering said.
Britt Farmer, senior minister of the West Freeway Church of Christ, said the incident could have been much worse if the church didn’t have its own security force.
“There is evil in this world,” Farmer said. “Today is one sermon I’ll never preach … it’s called leaving a legacy and two men today left a legacy. But a congregation is going to build on that legacy.”
A livestream recording of the church’s Sunday morning service posted on YouTube, and since marked private, showed the shooting and the commotion that followed.
“Today, evil walked boldly among us,” Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybournsaid. “But let me remind you, good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the two men who shot the gunman and pointed to two laws passed by the state legislature in recent years, one that allows people to carry concealed weapons inside churches and another that eliminated fees private institutions charge when they create their own security forces.
“This church had its own security team. They were well-trained,” Patrick said. “The heroism today is unparalleled. This team responded quickly and within six seconds, the shooting was over.”
In the YouTube video, someone thought to be the shooter gets up when the congregation greets each other, shakes hands and walks out talking to someone.
The shooter reenters the sanctuary, talks to a man in a suit and sits down. The person gets up again and talks to the same man, who points in a direction, and the shooter pulls out a firearm and shoots two people.
Another man pulls out a handgun and shoots the man. In the commotion, many in the congregation can be seen diving beneath church pews desperate for cover.
In the moments that follow, people can be heard screaming and church leaders ask that everyone sits down to wait for the police.
“Everything is under control. Our security team did exactly what they needed to do, but we do have one of our members that’s injured, so please,” someone is heard saying. “We have a gentleman that came in armed to do harm, and the police are on their way.”
Jeoff Williams, Texas Department of Public Safety regional director for North Texas, said “heroic” parishioners stopped the gunman and “saved 242 other” lives.
“Unfortunately this country has seen so many of these that we’ve actually gotten used to it at this point,” Williams said. “It’s tragic and it’s a terrible situation, especially during the holiday season.”
Multiple agencies, including the FBI, ATF, Texas DPS, Texas Rangers and Fort Worth and White Settlement police were investigating the shooting.
“We are working very hard to find motive, to get to the bottom of what happened,” said Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office.
DeSarno said the shooter, whose identity was not released Sunday, was “relatively transient,” but had roots in the area.
He had been arrested multiple times in different municipalities, but was not on any watch lists, DeSarno said.
In a written statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texans to pray for the White Settlement community and everyone affected.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and families of those killed in the evil act of violence that occurred at the West Freeway Church of Christ,” Abbott said. “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 shooting comes two years after a gunman walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2017, and fatally shot 26 and injured 20 others. In that incident, the gunman was fatally shot by a civilian as he left the church.
NBC 5’s Chris Blake contributed to this report.