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Minister: Texas gunman grew angry in past over cash requests

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Church and community members, including Matt Pacholczyk, left, and his wife, Faith Pacholczyk, stand outside West Freeway Church of Christ for a candlelight vigil, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas. A gunman shot and killed two people before an armed security officer returned fire, killing him during a service at the church on Sunday. | Tom Fox, The Dallas Morning News via AP

WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas (AP) — The man who opened fire inside a Texas church, killing two people before being shot to death, visited the church several other times this year and was given food but got angry when officials refused to give him money, the minister said.

Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43, brought a shotgun into the West Freeway Church of Christ in the Fort Worth-area town of White Settlement during Sunday services and opened fire, killing church members Richard White and Anton “Tony” Wallace, according to police. Witnesses said he was wearing a fake beard, a wig, a hat and a long coat, which drew the attention of the church’s security team.

Minister Britt Farmer told The Christian Chronicle that he recognized Kinnunen after seeing a photo of him without the disguise.

“We’ve helped him on several occasions with food,” Farmer said in the interview. “He gets mad when we won’t give him cash. He’s been here on multiple occasions.”

Authorities said Kinnunen’s motive remained under investigation. He was fatally shot by Jack Wilson, a member of the church’s volunteer security team, within seconds of the attack.

RELATED | 2 parishioners shot and killed Texas church gunman, police say

“The only clear shot I had was his head because I still had people in the pews that were not all the way down as low as they could. That was my one shot,” Wilson said Monday from his home in nearby Granbury, adding that several other churchgoers had their weapons drawn as well.

The actions of Wilson and other armed churchgoers quickly drew praise from some Texas lawmakers and gun-rights advocates. Texas officials hailed the state’s gun laws, including a measure enacted this year that affirmed the right of licensed handgun holders to carry a weapon inside places of worship unless a facility bans them.

In this still frame from livestreamed video provided by law enforcement, churchgoers take cover while a congregant armed with a handgun, top left, engages a man who opened fire, near top center just right of windows, during a service at West Freeway Church of Christ, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas. The footage was broadcast online by the church according to a law enforcement official, who provided the image to The Associated Press on condition on anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. | Courtesy West Freeway Church of Christ

“We can’t prevent every incident, we can’t prevent mental illness from occurring, and we can’t prevent every crazy person from pulling a gun, but we can be prepared like this church was,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters Monday.

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday night and Tuesday morning about the attack, both times highlighting the role of armed citizens in stopping the shooter. “If it were not for the fact that there were people inside of the church that were both armed, and highly proficient in using their weapon, the end result would have been catastrophic. A big THANK YOU to them!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

But other Texas lawmakers, while praising the churchgoers’ actions, called for a special legislative session to address gun violence after a devastating year that included mass shootings in El Paso and the West Texas cities of Odessa and Midland.

“As lawmakers, we must come together to address the rise in gun violence we have seen in Texas,” state Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Fort Worth, said in a statement Monday. “Yesterday’s gunman had a long criminal record, including charges of aggravated assault and possession of an illegal weapon. We must respect the Second Amendment while also working together to keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to do harm to Texans worshiping in a church, attending school or shopping for their children.”

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