Texas Authorities Seek Information About Gunman Who Killed 2 In Church Shooting

Dec 30, 2019
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Six seconds - that is how long it took for a man to open fire in a Texas church yesterday before a volunteer security guard gunned him down. In all, three people died, including the shooter. The state's Republican leaders say the death toll would have been higher but for the more lenient gun laws in Texas.

Reporter Christopher Connelly of member station KERA joins us now from Fort Worth. Welcome.

CHRISTOPHER CONNELLY, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: So what can you tell us about the gunman?

CONNELLY: Law enforcement say he was 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen. They described him as a transient. He's lived in cities across the country. He also had multiple arrests on his record, according to law enforcement officials.

Court records show run-ins with police in Texas and Arizona, in Oklahoma and New Jersey. Ten years ago, he was sentenced to 90 days in a Texas jail for threatening a man with a gun. In 2012, his ex-wife filed for a protective order in Oklahoma. They - calling him - she called him a violent and paranoid and a religious fanatic. The Texas attorney general today said that the shooter had also previously visited the church, although it's not really clear in what capacity.

CHANG: Do authorities even know why he did what he did yesterday?

CONNELLY: They really don't. You know, investigators - the investigation is being led by the Texas Rangers, a state agency. They say they're still trying to figure out what led out - what led up to this shooting. But video from a livestream camera that was rolling during the shooting - it's really shocking, even if we don't know what motivated it. You see the gunman sitting in the back of the church. He came in late. And during communion, he stood up, pulled a gun from his jacket and opened fire.

And you see in this video, you know, more than 200 people in the church that are running, ducking for cover. They're hiding under pews. And kind of against that grain, you see a handful of people with guns moving towards him, taking a shot and taking him down. It was pretty striking to watch at least a half-dozen people drawing guns in a church and firing. And I should say, it's not clear whether all of the people with guns were members of the church security team or if they were just church members who were carrying.

CHANG: As we said, Republican leaders are saying that more people would have died. But because Texas has lenient gun laws, some lives were saved. So what are the rules in Texas when it comes to bringing a gun into church?

CONNELLY: Yeah. So they've actually been sort of clarifying and loosening them. So earlier this year, state lawmakers changed the law to make it clear that people with concealed carry permits can bring their weapons into a church so long as the church doesn't directly prohibit it. Two years ago, a law was passed to make it easier for churches and other, you know, religious - houses of worship to set up their own armed volunteer security services. That was the same summer, of course, that - or that was the same year that the Sutherland Springs shooting happened with dozens of people shot.

And so you know, this is being mentioned as sort of the idea of a good guy with a gun. And, you know, of course, the man who actually did the shooting - his name's Jack Wilson - he is a pretty highly trained guy. He owns his own gun range as well.

CHANG: That is Christopher Connelly of member station KERA in Dallas.

Thank you.

CONNELLY: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.