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Church gunman kills 7, self, in Texas

Four teens share a moment of prayer after the deadly incident  
Listen to witnesses describe the shooting at the Wedgwood Baptist Church.
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Killer's identity a mystery

September 16, 1999
Web posted at: 3:05 a.m. EDT (0705 GMT)

FORT WORTH, Texas (CNN) -- Investigators early Thursday were trying to identify the black-clad gunman who killed seven people and himself at a Fort Worth church Wednesday night.

The killer and six of his victims remained inside Wedgwood Baptist Church, and a seventh victim died at a Fort Worth hospital, police said. Investigators closed the church to check for explosives.

"There are some indications that something may not be right," Fort Worth municipal spokesman Pat Svacina said.

Investigators believe a pipe bomb went off during the attack, and were using a robot to check for explosives. Fire Chief H. Larry McMillen said authorities feared the dead gunman's body may be booby-trapped.

"It's one of these situations where we've got to wait, take our time, and make sure the crime scene is processed correctly and that no one else gets injured," Fort Worth Police Chief Ralph Mendoza said.

Bomb squad
A bomb squad member leaves the church after checking the gunman's body for explosives  

Shooting motive unknown

The man's identity and motive remained unknown early Thursday. Police described the killer only as a slender white man in his mid-20s or 30s, dressed entirely in black. He shot himself in the head at the end of his spree, Mendoza said.

In addition to those killed, another seven were wounded, and some of those were reported in critical condition late Wednesday. The wounded included at least four teens, two boys and two girls, and a 12-year-old boy. Another five teens were unaccounted for early Thursday.

The attack came about a half-hour after the beginning of a prayer service and annual youth rally called "See You at the Pole," at which teens gather at a flagpole and pray for friends, families and nations. The rally attracted teens from across the area, police said.

"At first we thought it was a joke, part of grabbing the kids' attention," congregation member Marcelo Hernandez said. "But the louder it got, then people started running into the sanctuary ... People started dropping to the bottom of the benches.

"He was firing from outside in the hallway. By the time he came inside, he had already fired several rounds," Hernandez said.

Several teens told Dallas television station WFAA that as many as 40 shots may have been fired.

"He was shooting, then he went out and shut the door and went back in," one girl said. "He kept sitting down and pausing and putting in more bullets." The man was "cussing royally" as he fired, she said.

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Wedgwood Baptist Church
Cook Children's Health Care System
Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital
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