When the gunman in White Settlement, Texas, entered the West Freeway Church of Christ, he was in disguise. There was a reason: Some of the people in the congregation likely knew him.
Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43, was shot dead by a volunteer church security member, Jack Wilson. There was no motive given at the time of the Dec. 29 shooting, although it was reported that Kinnunen was known to staff of the church’s outreach program.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, members of West Freeway said that they’d helped Kinnunen out with food on several occasions. He apparently became angry when they wouldn’t give him money instead, however.
The information was originally tweeted out by Bobby Ross Jr., the editor in chief of the Christian Chronicle.
The apparently homeless gunman who killed two worshipers Sunday had been helped with food on several occasions by the West Freeway church, but he became angry when they wouldn’t give him money, minister Britt Farmer told me. He wasn’t recognized Sunday because he wore disguises.
— Bobby Ross Jr. (@bobbyross) December 30, 2019
In a piece Ross wrote for the Chronicle, Farmer said he had visited the church several times and asked for money but that he’d walked away empty-handed.
West Freeway minister Britt Farmer wouldn’t comment on the Ross tweet or piece other than to say that Ross was a friend; the Christian Chronicle editor has broken much of the information about the shooting on his Twitter account.
In a piece for Religion Unplugged, Ross said the two were contacts and Foster felt more comfortable talking with the Christian Chronicle than with more mainstream outlets like CNN.
NEW: Britt Farmer had his head down, focusing on the sermon he was about to preach.
That’s when the 60-year-old minister heard a gasp, followed by gunshots and screaming at the West Freeway Church of Christ.
My Christian Chronicle story: https://t.co/ROVgifjePV
— Bobby Ross Jr. (@bobbyross) January 1, 2020
Ross wrote in the piece that Kinnunen “gets mad when we won’t give him cash.”
Kinnunen had a history of getting angry over other things.
According to the Star-Telegram, he had an extensive criminal record, including a 2008 charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Texas, a spell in jail for a misdemeanor assault charge in Oklahoma, a 2012 charge that he “maliciously” set fire to a cotton field using tampons and lamp oil and a protective order filed against him by his ex-wife in which she called him a paranoid religious fanatic.
In 2016, New Jersey police arrested him with a shotgun near an oil refinery in Linden.
Check out video of last week’s shooting here: (Warning: It may be disturbing to some viewers.)
While he wasn’t recognized by churchgoers, several congregants said he made them feel uncomfortable.
“I should have listened to my gut,” 38-year-old Isabel Arreola said.
“While he was there, I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t pray. There was just something not right about him. But at the same time, I thought that maybe I was being too hard.”
Arreola, who sat behind the man, said she thought that his hair and beard both looked fake. Nevertheless, she said she wanted to set an example for her daughter by continuing to sit behind Kinnunen.
She told the Star-Telegram she and her husband had planned to move to the other side of the church after communion, but Kinnunen opened fire beforehand.
“At the same time, we all dove for the floor,” she said.
“My husband covered my daughter with his body.”
She credited church security and armed congregants, who shot Kinnunen dead in a matter of seconds.
“I was so surprised because I did not know that so many in the church were armed,” she said.
“They saved us,” she added. “Unfortunately, two men lost their lives while they were doing so.”
Instead, she was left with questions.
“Our church is so giving,” Arreola said. “We help the homeless. We help people get food, pay for car repairs. If he just needed something, I’m sure we would have tried to help him if he had just asked.”
Unfortunately, he wasn’t happy with what he received. We’re not sure whether this played into his motive or not. It’s clear, however, that this could be a window into his mentality.
Whatever it was, it’s yet more evidence that churches — and all organizations — need to be vigilant in the same way the West Freeway Church of Christ was.
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