*(CNN) — Two people were killed and one injured Thursday when a shooting erupted at a small church meeting in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, police said — the latest gun attack to unfold as Americans tried to go about their daily lives.
A suspect, who was identified as Robert Finlay Smith, 70, is in custody, said Capt. Shane Ware with the Vestavia Hills Police Department. Authorities said the third shooting victim was pronounced dead on Friday.
The attack on three parishioners at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills happened during an event dubbed Boomers Potluck, the Rev. John Burruss said in a written statement. It was reported around 6:22 p.m., Ware said.
“These are the pillars of our community, and I cannot begin to fathom how painful this is for our entire church, and the larger community,” Burruss said.
The shooting is the latest in a US house of worship and came on the eve of Friday’s seventh anniversary of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
A deadly mass shooting last month at a Taiwanese church service in Southern California — along with mass shootings at an elementary school in Texas and a New York supermarket — have drawn more political attention to gun violence. A bipartisan group of senators has announced an agreement in principle for gun safety legislation that aims to address mental health resources, school safety and access to firearms.
‘This should never happen’
After the Alabama church shooting, agents with the FBI, US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives were dispatched to the scene, Ware said. He didn’t take questions at any of the three news briefings on the shooting and urged anyone with more information to contact the Vestavia Hills Police Department.
Now, the community needs to be lifted up in healing through prayer and unity, the Rev. Kelley Hudlow, missioner for clergy formation for the Diocese of Alabama, told CNN affiliate WVTM.
“We are praying for healing and safety for all those who have been impacted and affected, and also knowing this is a traumatic thing that has happened to our community, not just our church, but this community here,” Hudlow said. “What we need is for this community to do what it’s really good at, which is coming together to take of each other.”
Church members Thursday night stood in a circle, holding hands, and prayed in a nearby parking lot, with several looking upset, CNN affiliate WBRC reported.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey sent her condolences.
“I am glad to hear the shooter is in custody,” Ivey said. “This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city, or anywhere. We continue to closely monitor the situation.”
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