Texas church shooting victims honored in vigil; church forgives shooter: 'The battle belongs to God'

On Monday night, worshipers gathered to honor Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64, and Richard White, 67, who were killed Sunday when Keith Thomas Kinnunen opened fire in the White Settlement church. | Star-Telegram (Screenshot)

Dozens of worshipers returned to West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, Monday night to honor two victims gunned down during the Lord’s Supper the previous day. 

The Texas church held a vigil to commemorate security guard Richard White, 67, and grandfather Anton "Tony" Wallace, 64, who were shot and killed by 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen during a worship service Sunday morning. The gunman was taken down by Jack Wilson, a 71-year-old firearms instructor.

The Christian Chronicle reports that worshipers gathered in the church fellowship hall, next door to the closed auditorium where the shooting occurred, to grieve, pray and sing hymns including “Amazing Grace,” “Precious Memories” and “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Outside the church, more than 100 came together on the lawn and in the parking lot to sing hymns and hear a message of restoration and forgiveness, according to the Star-Telegram.

“What happened yesterday is not something that we will ever be able to explain,” senior minister Britt Farmer told church members. “There is evil in this world, and evil took two of my dear friends yesterday. Not a bullet from a gun — evil. Not ideology — evil.”

“We’ve lost great men,” he said, but added that the “battle belongs to God.”

“I love this community. I love this church. I love this state. And I love our country, and I love our freedoms. And I’m not going to let evil take that away,” he said. 

Kinnunen, who had a history of run-ins with police and troubles with drug abuse and mental illness, had attended the church before the shooting occurred. The church had previously provided Kinnunen with food on multiple occasions, but when he asked for money he wasn't given any, according to Farmer. Authorities say Kinnunen's motive remains under investigation.

On the day of the shooting, Kinnunen slipped into the Sunday service wearing a long black wig, a fake beard, and a bulky jacket. This time, he pulled out a shotgun during the communion service and fatally shot two parishioners.

During the vigil, Farmer described Wallace, who was killed as he served communion, as his “best friend.”

“Preachers don’t have many best friends,” Farmer said, according to The New York Times. “If you’ve never been a preacher, you don’t understand that. But he was my best friend, and he died saving lives.”

Mike Tinius, one of the church’s five elders, wrapped an arm around Farmer and led the church in prayer during Monday’s service. 

“With all of our hearts, we ache. And with all of our hearts, we love,” Tinius prayed. “What we feel as loss, we know is your gain. Guide us in how we handle the losses … that your way be our way.”

The elder added, “Father, we even grieve the soul of the one who wronged us.”

Another minister at the church, Jack Cummings, told FOX29 the church forgives the shooter for his actions. 

"We bear no ill will toward the individual, his family," he said. "We pray for the best for all of them.”

Wilson, who fatally shot Kinnunen within seconds of the attack, told NBC's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate station KXAS Monday that he killed an evil on Sunday, not a human, and that that is how he's coping with what took place in the auditorium.

"I don’t feel like I’m a hero. I feel like I did what I needed to do to stop an evil threat," said Wilson.

On Facebook, Wilson wrote that the events at West Freeway Church of Christ “put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in,” but added that “evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church.”

“I’m thankful to GOD that I have been blessed with the ability and desire to serve him in the role of head of security at the church,” he wrote. “I am very sad in the loss of two dear friends and brothers in CHRIST, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed. Please pray for all the members and their families in this time. Thank you for your prayers and understanding.”

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