It’s been one year since a gunman walked into the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement and opened fire, killing two church members inside. The church pastor and security team members say it’s a day that changed their lives forever.
On December 29, 2019, Pastor Britt Farmer said he had a New Year’s message to share.
“My plan was to talk about some things that we had been through and host a retreat every year with our leadership to help us put things in perspective,” Farmer said.
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But just moments into communion, gunfire erupted from the back of the church.
“Thousands of things went through my mind and then there was the second shot, and the third shot and I'm on the floor because that's what we were trained to do," Farmer said.
They were trained by the church’s security team, put together by Jack Wilson, a year earlier in response to the Sutherland Springs church shooting where 26 people were killed and 20 others wounded.
In White Settlement, security team members said they saw a gunman come in, disguised in a wig, and kept their eyes on him just in case something went wrong.
“We just weren’t sure what was going to happen in that instant until he stood up and turned with the gun,” security team leader Jack Wilson said.
Wilson fired a single shot and took the suspect down just 6 seconds after he opened fire and killed two church members.
“I don't feel like I killed a human being,” Wilson said. “I took out evil because this individual came into the building with full evil intent in mind.”
Beloved church members, 64-year-old Tony Wallace and 67-year-old Richard White, were killed in the shooting. Farmer said the healing process for the church over the past year has been slow due to interruptions by COVID-19 and the inability to come together.
“That was the most difficult part of it is that we couldn't be together and that we're such a close-knit family,” he said.
The gunman was identified as Keith Thomas Kinnuen, a 43-year-old with an extensive criminal record. He was no stranger to the pastor or the church.
“He had been there several times,” Farmer said. “And we had helped him with food and stuff but he always got angry when he asked for money. I think that’s why he was disguised. We would have asked him to leave otherwise.”
The healing process continues for the church. As the new year approaches, Farmer said he hoped the church would be able to gather more frequently and fully recover from the tragedy.
“Hopefully in the near future and the vaccine gets out we won’t have to deal with COVID very much longer," Farmer said. "Then we can begin healing as a family and getting back together.”
Since the shooting last year, the West Freeway Church of Christ has received calls from churches around the world asking for advice on how to properly train their parishioners to respond to an active shooter situation. The church has resumed in-person services on Sunday mornings and continues to post a livestream online.