Lone gunman slays
seven in Texas church
___By Mark Wingfield
___FORT WORTH--When Glen Bucy first heard gunshots outside the sanctuary of Wedgwood Baptist Church the night of Sept. 15, he thought it was part of a skit.
___The time according to his watch was 6:55 p.m. And the program for this Wednesday night youth rally called for a skit about that time, he explained in an interview the day after
the shooting at the southwest Fort Worth church.
|AFTER the shooting stopped at Wedgwood Baptist Church, Avonda Hightower consoles her son, Chris, who saw a friend shot and killed. (Photo by Matt McClain, Dallas Morning News)
___"I thought they were trying to do something about Columbine to remind us," he explained, referencing the deadly rampage last spring at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
___Bucy, a 17-year-old high school senior, was sitting near the back of the church sanctuary because he, his brother and a friend had arrived late. After hearing the gunshots in the foyer, he turned to look behind him.
___Standing on the other side of a glass door was the gunman, peering into the sanctuary.
___"I looked at him, and he looked at me. We made eye contact. Then he started shooting right at me, through the glass," Bucy said. "We had glass fly all over us."
___Then the gunman opened the shattered door and walked into the sanctuary, where a Christian band was playing and the lights were dimmed. Bucy grabbed his brother and best friend and pushed them under the pew, telling them to stay still.
___As the gunman continued to fire, the band played on, and those in the front of the church did not understand what was transpiring behind them.
___"A lot of people started applauding because they thought it was part of this skit," Bucy explained.
___The applause angered the gunman, he said. "He started shouting, 'This is for real! This is for real!"
___That's when the gunman threw a pipe bomb, Bucy said, that "shook the whole building."
___The band stopped playing, and terror reigned in the sanctuary for an unknown number of minutes as the gunman cursed religion and Christianity and randomly shot his 9 mm semi-automatic handgun around the room.
___That's when the applause turned to screams.
___"One of the youth group leaders stood up and talked to the guy, trying to calm him down," Bucy said. "Then he started to witness to him."
___That angered the gunman further, Bucy said, causing him to reply, "This religion is a bunch of bull ____."
___Then the gunman fired at the man who had tried to calm him, Bucy said.
___The room went quiet for a minute, and then Bucy said he heard one last gunshot. When the lights came up, he looked across to another back pew and saw the gunman had sat down and shot himself in the head.
___The crowd of about 150 youth and their leaders then began running from the sanctuary.
As he passed through the foyer, Bucy said, he saw several people who had been shot before the gunman entered the sanctuary.
___In all, seven people were killed by Larry Gene Ashlock before he took his own life.
___Three of the dead were either current or former students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Wedgwood Baptist Church, located in a quiet middle-class residential neighborhood of southwest Fort Worth, long has been a popular church home for seminary students.
___The seminary's regular chapel service Sept. 16 was turned into a memorial service for the slain students, with Wedgwood Pastor Al Meredith and President Ken Hemphill speaking.
___"We come to you today in the midst of our grief, to know your hope and power and presence," Hemphill prayed at the service.
___Slain were current seminary student Shawn Brown, 23, a Christian education student from San Angelo; and former seminary students Sydney Browning, 36, children's choir director at Wedgwood; and Kimberly Jones, 23.
___The four teens killed were Kristi Beckel, 14; Joseph Ennis, 14; Cassandra Griffin, 14; and Justin Ray, 17.
___Ennis had come to the rally with a youth group from First Baptist Church of White Settlement. Although not a member of the church, he had been a regular visitor in recent weeks, said Pastor Jim Gatliff.
___Another member of White Settlement youth group--16-year-old Justin Laird--was among seven who were seriously wounded and being treated at area hospitals, Gatliff said.
___The White Settlement congregation, located in a Fort Worth suburb, had just concluded a monthly business meeting when they got word of the shooting at Wedgwood. Not knowing the extent of the situation, they immediately reconvened for a brief prayer time, Gatliff said. "We just prayed for whoever and whatever."
___Then the pastor got a phone call from the youth minister, who was calling from his cell phone at Wedgwood and gave the news that one of their students was dead and another paralyzed.
___The congregation went to prayer once again, while many parents scurried out of the building to go find their teenagers.
___Later, an all-night vigil was held at the hospital where Laird was being treated.
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