Mormon church shooting: Suspect in custody after killing one and injuring one during service

Mythili Sampathkumar

A man suspected of killing one person and injuring another after allegedly opening fire in a Mormon church during one of its services is in custody, police said.

Police Chief Kevin Gehman of Fallon, Nevada, identified the suspected shooter as 48-year-old John Kelley O’Connor and said the man surrendered to authorities at his home.

“City of Fallon Police Officers and Churchill County Sheriff’s Deputies surrounded the home while a hostage negotiator was called to the scene. After placing phone calls to the home, O’Connor agreed to exit the property and surrender to officers,” a statement from police read.

Mr O’Connor is being held, but has not been formally charged as yet for the death of Charles E “Burt” Miller, a fellow member of the Church of Latter Day Saints in the small city, 60 miles southeast of Reno. The second victim was treated and released from hospital. Mr O’Connor has not yet commented.

Approximately 50 churchgoers witnessed the shooting, which took place just as the Sunday morning service was ending. Fallon city spokesperson Kaitlin Ritchie confirmed Mr O’Connor had been in attendance at the service before the 1pm shooting occurred.

Mr Gehman pointed out it was “too early” to determine the motive of the shooter but he said “it does not appear to have been directed at the church, but an individual victim”.

He also noted the shooter used a medium-size calibre handgun.

It is unclear at this time what, if any, Mr O’Connor and Mr Miller may have had and if Mr O’Connor had a permit to carry the type of firearm used in the crime.

Fallon police have not immediately responded to a request for comment.

Mr Gehman also said local police had “contacts” with Mr O’Connor in the past, but did not elaborate on the nature of those incidents, only saying they were “nothing that would rise to this level”.

Latter-Day Saints Church spokesperson Eric Hawkins said in a statement: “We express our love to those in this congregation and our prayers for the victims and their families. Local leaders are ministering to them at this time”.

US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada tweeted: “My heart goes out to all of those impacted. Places of worship should be a safe haven. The gun violence across this country must end.”

Senator Dean Heller said he was “deeply saddened by the act of senseless violence”.

On 17 June 2015, Dylann Roof opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people. Many states have or attempted to pass gun control laws, restricting carry and display of firearms while on the grounds of religious institutions.