WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — The volunteer security member who fatally shot a gunman in a Texas church on Sunday was a former reserve deputy sheriff who is a firearms instructor, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday.
The security member, identified as Jack Wilson, shot the gunman just seconds after the suspect killed two parishioners at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement on Sunday morning.
“My understanding is, he was a reserve deputy and had significant training, had his own shooting range, had taught other people how to shoot, had taught many people in this church how to be prepared,” Paxton told reporters at a news conference. “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.”
Officials had said on Sunday night that multiple members of the church security team responded to the gunman. However, Paxton said that Wilson was the only person who shot at the suspect, and he fired just once. The two victims killed by the gunman also were members of the church security team, Paxton said.
Wilson, who is head of security at the church, posted a statement online thanking “all who have sent their prayers and comments on the events of today.
“The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church,” he said. “I am very sad in the loss of two dear friends and brothers in CHRIST, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed.”
Wilson, who is running for county commissioner for Precinct 3 of Hood County, Texas, posted the statement on his campaign website.
Wilson served as a Hood County Reserve Deputy Sheriff from 1980 to 1986, according to his online biography. He also said he is a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement instructor as well as a License To Carry (LTC) instructor.
In an interview with CNN affiliate KTVT, Wilson said that he had “eyes” on the suspect from the time he walked into the room.
“After he shot (the two victims), he went and started towards the front of the sanctuary and that’s when I was able to engage him, and I fired one round,” he told KTVT.
Victims’ and gunman’s identities have not been released
Neither the victims nor the gunman have been named by authorities as of Monday morning, although officials said the gunman had been arrested multiple times in different municipalities.
“The shooter is relatively transient but has roots to this area,” Matthew Desarno, special agent in charge of the FBI Dallas office told reporters Sunday night. He added that the shooter was not on any sort of watch list.
Paxton said it was his understanding that the gunman was a “more of a loner.” He had been to the church several times before and was welcomed in, the attorney general said.
How the shooting unfolded
White Settlement police Chief J.P. Bevering said the shooter entered West Freeway Church of Christ and sat down in the sanctuary just before 11 a.m. (12 p.m. ET) Sunday. He then stood, pulled out a shotgun and shot two people, Bevering said.
A video livestreamed from the church, seen by CNN, appears to show the shooting from start to finish. Lisa Farmer, the wife of the West Freeway Church of Christ Minister Britt Farmer, was not inside the church at the time of the shooting but told CNN the video shows the inside of the church building.
The shooter can be seen in the video seated in a pew wearing dark clothing before he gets up and approaches someone in a back corner and appears to talk to them. The individual gestures towards the center of the church before the shooter pulls out a shotgun and starts firing. As gunfire ensues, some parishioners are seen taking cover under their pews while others rush out of the sanctuary.
Another man with a handgun is seen in the video immediately engaging with the shooter and taking him down. Once the shooter is subdued, several other parishioners are seen approaching with their weapons drawn.
Farmer told CNN the shooting happened during communion. “It was so chaotic,” she said.
The church normally has around 280 people attending Sunday services, Farmer said. She said one of the men who died was a close friend “who would do anything for anybody that he could. Good guy. He’s been there for us through thick and thin.”
Isabel Arreola, who was sitting a few rows ahead of the shooter in the church, tells CNN affiliate KTVT that when she saw him she knew “something’s not right.”
She told KTVT the shooter’s appearance bothered her so much she pointed it out to her husband. “I told him I don’t feel comfortable. I feel he’s like dressed in like a beard and that’s a wig… it looks so fake… I just kind of kept looking back there,” she said.
“I saw him pull the gun out and I was just panicked and then we heard it go off and we’re just screaming, you know trying to get under the pews,” Arreola told the affiliate. “What triggered him to come and do this? I just think about… It could have been us. It just really breaks my heart to know people are gone.”
Church security took down the gunman
Several officials lauded the actions of the armed church security volunteers.
“This team responded quickly and within six seconds the shooting was over,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told reporters during a Sunday night news conference. “Two of the parishioners who are volunteers on the security force drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately saving untold number of lives.”
“The citizens who were inside that church undoubtedly saved 242 other parishioners,” Regional Director of Texas Department of Public Safety Jeoff Williams told reporters Sunday night.
He also said that no ideology or motivation has been determined behind the shooting.
Church members told affiliate KTVT that the security team started about a year ago. Patrick said that a law passed recently that allows churches to develop, train and plan for their own teams to provide security.
Patrick spoke about another Texas law that took effect in September that makes it legal for people to have guns in houses of worship.
Both laws were passed after a shooting at another church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left 26 people dead in 2017.