Armed parishioner says he’s ‘no hero,’ as new details emerge about the Texas church shooter

The pistol-packing churchgoer captured on livestream gunning down a man who opened fire inside a Texas church on Sunday morning, killing two members of the congregation, says he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

Jack Wilson, a 71-year-old former reserve deputy sheriff, took out the shotgun-wielding suspect with a single shot to the head during services at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the Fort Worth suburb of White Settlement, police and witnesses said.

“I don’t see myself as a hero,” Wilson told reporters on Monday. “I see myself as doing what needed to be done to take out the evil threat.”

Not only is Wilson a former law enforcement officer, he also provides firearms training to members of the church who volunteer to help with security of the sanctuary, he said. He also has his own gun range.

Wilson was standing at the rear of the church during communion when the suspect, who witnesses said was wearing a fake beard and sunglasses, stood up just before 11 a.m. and confronted a church official. A livestream of the service showed the gunman suddenly pull out a short-barreled shotgun from under a long coat and shoot two churchgoers before Wilson killed him.

A church deacon, Tony Wallace, 64, was among the two church members fatally shot by the suspect, Wallace’s family confirmed to ABC News on Monday.

Family members confirmed to ABC News that Tony Wallace, pictured in an undated handout photo, was one of the victims in a church shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, on Dec. 29, 2019.Courtesy Wallace Family

A second victim has been confirmed as Richard “Rich” White. He was 67 years old, lived in River Oaks and was an armed member of the church’s volunteer security team, his family told ABC News.

Family members confirmed to ABC News that Richard “Rich” White, pictured in an undated handout photo, was one of the victims in a church shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, on Dec. 29, 2019.Courtesy White Family

“Rich constantly put others first and was always willing to help with a smile on his face,” his family said in a statement. “Rich was an Eagle Scout, lover of adventure, and all things outdoors. He was a strong man of faith and a devoted member to the West Freeway Church of Christ community.”

“We lost two great men. And it could have been a lot worse,” Britt Farmer, senior minister of the church, said at a news conference Sunday night.

The suspect was identified as 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen of River Oaks, Texas, which is about 12 miles southwest of White Settlement, a law enforcement source told ABC News.

Kinnunen has a lengthy criminal history. He pleaded guilty to charges of arson and aggravated assault and battery in Oklahoma from 2011 to 2012. He also had a restraining order filed against him in 2012. In each of the criminal cases, Kinnunen was required to undergo a mental evaluation, according to court records.

His rap sheet also includes an arrest in River Oaks for possession of narcotics in 2009 and an arrest in 2016 for unlawful possession of a weapon in Linden, New Jersey, the source said.

Law enforcement sources have identified Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43, pictured here in a booking photo from 2015, as the shooter who attacked the West Freeway Church in White Settlement, Texas, Dec. 29, 2019.River Oaks Police Department

Kinnunen’s sister, Amy Kinnunen, confirmed to ABC News on Monday that her brother was the gunman. She said he allegedly committed the double slaying at the church on the 10th anniversary of the suicide of their brother, Joel Kinnunen.

Amy Kinnunen told ABC News that she believes Keith Kinnunen was on his own suicide mission.

Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton said the alleged shooter had attended the church several times and has had multiple run-ins with law enforcement.

Although two members of the congregation died, Paxton praised Wilson for saving lives, noting that more than 200 people were at the church when the shooting erupted.

The attorney general called Wilson, a Republican candidate for Hood County, Texas, Precinct 3 commissioner, a “hero.”

“This church responded in seconds and it saved lives of potentially over 200 people,” Paxton said. “They are the model for what other churches and places of business should focus on.”

Law enforcement and the media work outside the West Freeway Church of Christ after a shooting took place during services, Dec. 29, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas.Stewart F. House/Getty Images

Wilson said that in the chaos that broke out when the shooting started, he drew his handgun and paused to prevent shooting people standing in his line of fire.

“There were people in front of me, between the shooter and myself,” Wilson said. “I had to wait for just a second because the whole thing was less than six seconds from start to finish and I had to make sure I didn’t hit a member as they were right in front of me.”

On Sunday, White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering initially said a second church member also opened fire, but Paxton said on Monday that Wilson was the only one who fired a shot. In the livestream of the incident, other worshipers are seen drawing weapons.

“I only fired one round. It was the only shot I had, which was a head shot,” Wilson said. “In my classes, I teach not to take head shots, but that was the only shot I had that was a clear shot and I was comfortable with taking the shot because of my training and my practice.”

He said once he took out the suspect, he walked over to the gunman to make sure he “was not going to get up.”

“There was no verbal communication out of him whatsoever at that point. He was down, he was bleeding profusely from his head and the only movement was just body twitching, which happens when someone is in that condition where they’re about to die,” Wilson said.

Authorities work the scene after a shooting took place during services at West Freeway Church of Christ, Dec. 29, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas.Stewart F. House/Getty Images

Told he saved countless lives, Wilson added, “I feel confident of that because when an individual is using a 12-gauge, short-barrel shotgun with double-aught buck in it, which is what he had in it, then, you know, it could have been a whole lot worse.”

Wilson said the church decided to create an armed volunteer security team about 1 1/2 years ago when the congregation moved into its new sanctuary, where Sunday’s shooting occurred. The church leaders felt they needed extra protection after five homicides occurred within two miles of the church in 2018 and two homicides happened close to the church earlier this year.

Prompted by the November 2017 mass shooting that left 26 people dead at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law in September allowing legal gun owners to carry concealed weapons to churches and other places of worship that welcome the added security.

“I hope through this tragedy more churches will prepare like this church did — not just in Texas but across the country,” Paxton said at a news conference on Monday.

Asked by reporters if was politicizing the church shooting by promoting the state’s new laws signed by Abbott, easing restrictions on firearms — that also included removing a cap on the number of armed marshals allowed on school campuses and prohibiting landlords from banning tenants from having guns in their apartments — Paxton responded, “If we end up saving a life that’s darn worth it to me.”

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