A 61-year-old pastor is being hailed as a hero after he grappled with a gunman who started firing inside a church in East Selma, Alabama, on Sunday.
Pastor Earl Carswell flung himself at James Junior Minter, 26, after the latter began shooting people during church service inside the Oasis Tabernacle Church, said Selma Police Lt. Curtis Muhannad, according to Fox News.
As Carswell was trying to grab the gun from Minter's hand, a bullet went off hitting the pastor in the leg. The people inside the church then pounced on the gunman and took away his gun, the police and witnesses said.
Minter managed to run out of the church but was caught and arrested by the police less than a mile away. Minter is being held without bond, Muhannad said.
The vehicle he used was left at the church while the gun was recovered in the church, police said.
District Attorney Michael Jackson lauded the pastor and the people inside the church for having the presence of mind to stop what could have been a church massacre. "A whole lot more people could have been shot," he said. "They all played a heroic role."
"We've reached the point where all churches are gonna have to have cameras and check for weapons," Jackson said. "That's the way society is going now. It's the world we live in now."
According to witnesses, Minter entered the church and sat in the front row between his girlfriend and their baby. He then pulled out a handgun and fired at her unidentified girlfriend, who fell to the ground after bullets struck her jaw and shoulder. Their one-month old baby was hit in the hand.
Carswell then immediately rushed at Minter but was shot in the leg. The wounded pastor was taken to the emergency room for treatment while the woman and baby were brought to a hospital in Birmingham. They are in stable condition.
Former Selma Mayor and Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church minister James Perkins went to the scene and said he prayed for the victims of the shooting.
"It's hard to comprehend it, it's hard to understand it but a lot of people are struggling. A lot of people are stressed," Perkins said. "We walk by faith, not by sight. We still have to believe that there's goodness in most people."
Minter is now at Dallas County jail and has been charged with three counts of attempted murder.
He has a prior record of arrest and authorities are looking whether he violated a protective order.