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Three dead, including gunman, at Texas church where parishioners returned fire

The gunman was killed as members of the congregation returned fire during services in the town of White Settlement, police said.
Image: Authorities say two people were fatally shot at West Freeway Church of Christ during Sunday service on Dec. 29, 2019.
Authorities say a gunman fatally shot two people at West Freeway Church of Christ during Sunday services on Dec. 29, 2019.KXAS

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By Doha Madani and Tim Stelloh

A gunman fatally shot two people before at a church near Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday, authorities said.

J.P. Bevering, police chief of White Settlement, in Tarrant County, said the man opened fire at West Freeway Church of Christ during services shortly before noon. Worshipers returned fire, killing the gunman, Bevering said.

One person was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting. Another parishioner who was in critical condition later died, authorities said.

茄枝视频One of them was identified by his daughter as Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64.

"We lost two great men today," Britt Farmer, the church's senior minister, told reporters late Sunday. "But it could've been a lot worse."

茄枝视频Bevering said the shooter, who has not been identified, appears to have walked into the church and sat down.

"He got up, pulled out a shotgun and fired it at a parishioner," Bevering said. "That parishioner is deceased."

茄枝视频The shooter struck a second person before two other parishioners, who are volunteer members of a church security team, returned fire. The shooting was over within six seconds, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told reporters.

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茄枝视频They "drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately, saving untold number of lives," Patrick said.

Matt DeSarno, the special agent in charge of Dallas' FBI field office, said investigators were still trying to determine the motive behind the shooting.

茄枝视频DeSarno described the shooter as a "relatively transient" person with roots in the area who'd been arrested multiple times in different cities. He declined to provide additional details.

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茄枝视频Anton Wallace’s daughter, Tiffany Wallace, who witnessed the shooting, described the gunman as a white man with a fake beard and black hair who was wearing a trench coat.

“I was thinking, hey, he’s a visitor probably looking for a new church home,” she said.

Moments later, she said, the man stood up and fired at a security guard and two other parishioners, including her father, a registered nurse at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Forth Worth who regularly attended West Freeway.

茄枝视频“I ran towards my dad, holding him,” she said. “I told him I love him.”

茄枝视频Her family was left reeling over the loss. If the gunman had needed food or shelter, she said, the church would have provided it.

茄枝视频“Whatever he needed, he didn’t need to taken an innocent life — our dad, grandfather, husband, father, fixing to be father-in-law,” she said. “He was just our rock.”

Fort Worth police Sgt. Christopher Daniels said that a video of the service streamed online earlier Sunday may have documented the attack but that it was removed from YouTube.

茄枝视频Farmer confirmed the video's existence to NBC News.

茄枝视频Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting an "evil act of violence" in a statement Sunday afternoon.

茄枝视频"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," Abbott said.

White Settlement was given its name in the 1800s by Native Americans after non-Indigenous families began to settle in the area, .

Rima Abdelkader contributed.