Alabama church shooting: How a pastor brought down an armed gunman

Alabama church shooting: Earl Carswell, pastor of the Oasis Tabernacle Church in East Selma, Ala., and members of his congregation are being hailed as heroes after wrestling a gun away from a shooter who opened fire during service on Sunday.

Alaina Denean Deshazo/The Selma Times-Journal/AP
The Oasis Tabernacle Church is seen in East Selma, Ala., on Sunday. Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson says suspect James Minter has been charged with three counts of attempted murder after allegedly shooting a woman, an infant and a pastor inside the church.

A pastor and members of his congregation in East Selma, Ala., are being praised as heroes by police for subduing a gunman during a church service on Sunday.

James Junior Minter is being held without bond on three counts of attempted murder in the shooting of his girlfriend, his infant son, and the church pastor, Earl Carswell during a church service at Oasis Tabernacle Church, according to Selma police Lt. Curtis Muhannad.

Witnesses told law enforcement that Mr. Minter entered the church and sat in the front row with his girlfriend and the baby before pulling out a handgun and opening fire, according to a statement released by the Selma Police Department. The girlfriend fell to the ground, and Minter fired at her, striking her in the jaw and shoulder. The baby, a 1-month-old boy, was shot in the hand.

Pastor Carswell then grabbed Minter. The pastor was shot in the leg as he intervened and tried to wrestle away Minter's gun, District Attorney Michael Jackson said. Members of the congregation helped subdue Minter and managed to take away his gun, according to police. Minter then ran out of the church.

"A whole lot more people could have been shot," Mr. Jackson said, "They all played a heroic role."

Minter was arrested less than a mile away from the church, shortly after the violence broke out. His vehicle and the weapon were recovered at the church, according to officials.

The pastor was taken to a local emergency room for treatment, while the woman and baby were taken to a hospital in Birmingham. The victims are in stable condition.

Police said Minter was likely upset over a recent breakup and visitation issues with his son.

Minter had an arrest record but details on his past encounters with law enforcement weren't immediately available, according to Lieutenant Muhannad. Authorities are also investigating whether Minter violated a protective order.

The pastor in Sunday's shooting is white and the alleged gunman, James Minter, his girlfriend and the infant are black, Jackson said. The shooting was not believed to be racially motivated.

"This was a domestic violence situation," Jackson said. "It's just a sad situation when people have to be on guard in their church."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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