Death Toll Rises in Ala. Church Shooting, Suspect IDed

3 have died after Vestavia Hills shooting; Robert Findlay Smith faces capital murder charges
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 17, 2022 12:26 AM CDT
Updated Jun 18, 2022 6:00 AM CDT
2 Killed, 1 Hurt in Alabama Church Shooting
Police barricade off the area after a shooting at the Saint Stevens Episcopal Church on Thursday, June 16, 2022 in Vestavia, Ala.   (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

(Newser) Update: Police have IDed a suspect in Thursday night's church shooting in Alabama. Robert Findlay Smith, 70, who's now facing capital murder charges, is said to have been a fairly regular attendee at services at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, with the reverend's wife telling ABC News that Smith usually "sat in the back" and "didn't have much interaction with anybody." Authorities say a "hero" church member subdued Smith on Thursday until police arrived, per CBS News. Officials have also identified the three shooting victims, per WBRC: Walter Rainey, 84, who died at the scene; Sarah Yeager, 75, who died at an area hospital; and Jane Pounds, 84, who died Friday at a local hospital. Smith is being held in the Jefferson County Jail on no bond. Our original story from Friday follows:

A single gunman opened fire inside a suburban Alabama church Thursday evening, killing two people and wounding a third at a small group meeting before being taken into custody, authorities said. The attack occurred at Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills, said Police Capt. Shane Ware. He said dispatchers got a call at around 6:20pm reporting an active shooter there, the AP reports. Ware said a suspect was detained and there was "no threat to the community at this time." Police declined to identify the suspect or the victims, or provide further details on the attack, saying another briefing was planned Friday.

The church's website listed a "Boomers Potluck" for Thursday night. "There will be no program, simply eat and have time for fellowship," the flyer read. Investigators remained at the scene hours past nightfall, with yellow police tape cordoning off the church complex, and emergency police and fire vehicles with flashing lights blocking the route to the church. The FBI, US Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives dispatched agents to the scene. Nearby, people huddled and prayed. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement late Thursday lamenting what she called the shocking and tragic loss of life at the church. "This should never happen—in a church, in a store, in the city or anywhere," she wrote.

(Read more Alabama stories.)

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