An assailant opened fire at a church in Alabama on Thursday evening, killing two people and wounding one other, the authorities said.
A suspect was in custody after the shooting, at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, a city of around 34,000 people about six miles south of Birmingham, said Capt. Shane Ware of the Vestavia Hills Police Department.
The injured victim was being treated at a hospital, and the condition was not immediately known, Captain Ware said.
“A lone suspect entered a small group church meeting and began shooting,” Captain Ware said.
At the time of the shooting, a “Boomers Potluck Dinner” was being held in the church, according to a calendar on the church’s website. It was supposed to be a relaxing evening without an agenda, according to organizers. “There will be no program, simply eat and have time for fellowship,” an advertisement for the event said.
Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama called the shooting “a tragic loss of life.”
“This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city or anywhere,” she said.
The shooting comes amid a nationwide explosion in gun violence, including two gun massacres in May: one at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead; and a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket in which a white gunman killed 10 Black people.
The back-to-back mass shootings pushed the issue of gun violence to the forefront in Washington, where Congress is trying to advance a bipartisan deal on a narrow set of gun safety measures, including enhanced background checks to give the authorities time to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21.
Also in May, a 68-year-old Las Vegas man opened fire inside a church with a Taiwanese congregation in Southern California, killing one person and wounding five others in what the Orange County sheriff described as a “politically motivated hate incident.”
“It’s a scary thing when it happens,” she told WVTM 13 in Birmingham, “so what we really need is for people to come together and take care of each other.”