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Gunman fires shots during worship service in Missouri comment (0)

August 1, 2013

NORWOOD, Mo. — A 48-year-old man is in custody after witnesses say he opened fire during a July 21 worship service at First Baptist Church, Norwood, Mo. Worshippers tackled him before anyone was shot. One man injured his shoulder in the scuffle, but no other injuries were reported.

Pastor Stephen Fugitt was about halfway through his morning sermon when Earnest Smith entered the church carrying a “high-caliber” revolver and fired two or three shots. The suspect shot at least once into the floor between himself and Fugitt while walking toward the platform, Fugitt said. “He pulled his gun up and before he could fire, one of the guys grabbed his arm (just before he pulled the trigger) and it (the bullet) went up into the ceiling.”

Several more men piled onto the suspect and wrestled the gun away from him until the Wright County Sheriff’s Department could arrive. An arrest document said Smith told police he was angry at the pastor and church members because they lied about him following a previous incident at the church June 9. No one at the church wanted to file a complaint at the time, but the Wright County Sheriff’s Office held Smith for a 96-hour psychological evaluation in Springfield.

Smith now faces felony charges of assault, unlawful use of a weapon, making a terrorist threat and armed criminal action. The most serious offenses are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. He remains in custody on $250,000 bond.

Fugitt told local media he believes quick action by church members saved lives. “Everyone is traumatized, but we are thankful,” he said. “We believe we had a divine help that prevented anything worse from happening.”

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