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30 Dec, 2019 23:26

An American story: Texas church shooter was stopped by 'good guy' gun safety instructor

An American story: Texas church shooter was stopped by 'good guy' gun safety instructor

The man who shot up a Texas church on Sunday, killing two, was a homeless felon with a long rap sheet. The hero who downed him with a single shot to the head, before he could kill anyone else, owned a local shooting range.

The tragic shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement near Fort Worth on Sunday could have been much worse, authorities have confirmed. Former Hood County deputy sheriff Jack Wilson, a trained marksman who owned a shooting range and worked as security for the church, took out the gunman – a convicted felon named Keith Kinnunen – with a single shot just seconds after the man began shooting.

Kinnunen still managed to kill Deacon Tony Wallace, who was handing out communion at the time, and Rich White, a member of the church's security team trained by Wilson, according to local media.

"He's not just responsible for his actions, which ultimately saved the lives of maybe hundreds of people, but he's also responsible for training hundreds in that church," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said during a press conference on Monday.

Regional Director of Texas Department of Public Safety Jeoff Williams agreed that "the citizens who were inside that church undoubtedly saved 242 other parishioners."

Wilson shrugged off the "hero" language, explaining, "I see myself as doing what needed to be done to take out the evil threat."

The 71-year-old firearms instructor, who ran a shooting range and firearms training academy in Tarrant County until it burned down in 2016, is running for Hood County Commissioner. He posted a statement on his campaign's Facebook page, thanking those who'd shown their support, mourning "the loss of two dear friends and brothers in Christ," and noting that "evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed."

A Reuters report mistaking the authorities' statements about Wilson to be referring to Kinnunen saw a number of media outlets erroneously reporting that the shooter had been a gun safety instructor.


In reality, Kinnunen was a transient who had been arrested many times in many different jurisdictions. The church had reportedly given him food several times, but he "became angry when they wouldn't give him money," according to local media. 

Wearing a hooded shirt, Kinnunen arrived at the church on Sunday and apparently went unrecognized, though the security team took note of his strange appearance and kept a wary eye on him; other parishioners claimed to have felt uneasy in his presence. 

Kinnunen's criminal convictions include aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, third-degree arson, illegal possession of a concealed weapon, and theft. It's not clear how he obtained the shotgun he used in the attack, though he was found in possession of a shotgun during a previous arrest. Despite his lengthy criminal history, he was not on any sort of watchlist, according to the FBI.

Texas recently passed a pair of laws permitting guns inside religious establishments and allowing churches to train and equip their own security forces, both inspired by a previous church shooting in Sutherland Springs in 2017 that left 26 dead. West Freeway began training its own security team in 2018, when the church moved to a new building in a more violent area, Wilson told local media.

All sides of the yet-unresolved gun ownership debate in the US quickly read their narratives into the White Settlement tragedy. The "good guy with a gun" situation is often cited by the pro-Second Amendment faction as a reason for allowing guns in public places, with the reasoning that "if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

Many held up Sunday's shooting – which would no doubt have had a higher body count had Wilson not intervened – as proof they were right.

The gun-control crowd pointed out that Wilson wasn't just a random person pulling out his gun and saving the congregation, but someone trained to do exactly what he did. They suggested that the average person intervening in a mass shooting would likely cause further harm.

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