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3 People Shot and Killed at Alabama Church, Prayer Circles Form on Site in Immediate Aftermath

06-17-2022
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Church members console each other after a shooting at the Saint Stevens Episcopal Church on Thursday, June 16, 2022 in Vestavia, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Church members console each other after a shooting at the Saint Stevens Episcopal Church on Thursday, June 16, 2022 in Vestavia, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

An Alabama community is turning to prayer for healing after two people were shot and killed Thursday night during a potluck dinner inside a suburban Alabama church. A third victim succumbed to her injuries and died on Friday.

It happened Thursday evening just outside of Birmingham, Alabama at a "Boomers" potluck dinner at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills. 

Police have now revealed the shooter was a 71-year-old man who occasionally attended services at the church.

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"A lone suspect entered a small group church meeting and began shooting," said Captain Chane Ware. "Three people were shot, two people are deceased." 

Walter Rainey, 84, of nearby Irondale was killed at the church and Sarah Yeager, 75, of Pelham died after being taken to a hospital, police said. 

Lynda Montana, a 20-year-member at St. Stephen's, said she was in shock that her church is now a crime scene. "It's the (most) loving, small, comfortable church," Montana said. "It's very community-oriented and very loving." 

Prayer circles formed in a nearby parking lot were the initial response of several people distressed by what happened. Rev. Kelly Hudlow, Missioner for Clergy formation for the Diocese of Alabama, says the community needs to be lifted up in healing through prayer and unity. 

"I'm sad, this is something you read about in the news," Rev. Hudlow said. "It hurts that it happened here." 

Police declined to identify the suspect or the victims, leaving out further details on the attack.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement late Thursday lamenting the shocking loss of life at the church. She wrote: “This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city or anywhere."

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