Church pastor James Tripp Battle killed in triple murder in Florida; Manhunt underway

The search is on to find the perpetrator of a fatal shooting at a church in Bradenton in Florida on Thursday.

Officers were called to Bayshore Baptist Church at 1.20pm in response to gunshot sounds and found the body of pastor Tripp Battle. He had suffered a gunshot wound.  

According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the church's nursery and children's director Amber Avalos was found dead at a residence at 1208 67th St NW in Bradenton along with a third victim, identified as Denise Potter. 

Avalos was described on the church's staff page as the mother of six children to husband Andy Avalos Jr, the main suspect in the killings.  The staff page also states that Amber Avalos's father-in-law is a pastor in the town.

Andres 'Andy' Avalos

Andy Avalos was last seen driving a gold 2003 Chevy Suburban with the license plate 484 VTZ.  He is considered armed and extremely dangerous, and members of the public are being advised not to approach him but notify the Sheriff's Office immediately of any sightings.

According to WFLA, investigators believe the two women were killed first, although it has not yet been determined how they were killed.

Sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow said: "We don't know exactly what transpired."

According to the church staff page, Pastor Battle was married to the church secretary, Joy Battle, and they have two children together, Sophie and Joshua.

Tripp's father, Jimmy Battle, 68, told Tampa Bay: "Joy saw it, she witnessed it, and he pumped a number of rounds into Tripp." He also said his son recently helped the suspect get some work by laying floor at his home. "I wasn't that surprised. I was surprised that anybody would want to kill Tripp. I mean he just helped everybody. He didn't have a mean bone in his body."