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Congregants kill gunman in shooting at Texas church

The suspected shooter was killed in 'heroic actions' by parishioners returning fire at the church in White Settlement in the Dallas–Fort Worth area, officials said.

WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — Three people have been killed in a shooting at a church in Texas. 

Authorities said it happened Sunday morning at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, a northwestern suburb of Fort Worth.

The gunfire started shortly before noon on Sunday, when a man entered the church and began firing a gun. Parishioners returned fire and killed the suspect, authorities said.

At a press conference, officials praised the "heroic actions" of the church parishioners. 

A witness said the shooting happened during communion, and the gunman reportedly had a shotgun before being taken down by another armed church member.

Longtime church member John Richardson survived the shooting. He said he and his wife hit the ground, and he laid on top of her to protect her. 

"We have to understand that this poor man, I don't know what his mental state was, but my heart goes out to his family, because they have to live with this," he said.

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MedStar Mobile Healthcare spokeswoman Macara Trusty had said that two people were fatally shot at the church, and a third person was being treated at a hospital. She said all of the victims are male. 

During a news conference later on, police confirmed that the second church member who was shot had died, raising the number of those killed in the incident to three. They also said that the man who shot and killed the gunman is a member of the church and part of its security team. 

The FBI is examining a motive for the shooting, and would only say that the suspect had been arrested before by militiamen agencies.

The church's pastor, Britt Farmer, addressed the media, saying “we lost two great men today, but it could have been a lot worse.” He said that the sermon he would have given on Sunday was going to be about leaving a legacy behind, and that the congregation is going to build on the victims' legacies.

“Today our home was invaded by evil,” Farmer also said, adding that such events happen too often.

The minister thanked police and other first responders who helped his church, saying as well that he's grateful the government allows them to protect themselves.

RELATED: Texas law allowing people to carry guns in church went into effect Sept. 1

Credit: Matt Howerton/WFAA
A shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ left at least two people dead and one in critical condition on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas.

The shooting was apparently broadcast on the church's live stream. 

A video of the worship service shows a person wearing a large coat stand up and then pull out what appears to be a rifle or a shotgun as communion was finishing. The shooter appears to fire twice before another person appears to shoot back.

The shooting lasted about six seconds, the live stream shows. The video has since been removed from YouTube.

Many people in the congregation ducked under church pews while others rushed toward the shooter, holding up handguns, the video shows. 

A church leader starts telling people to quiet down and be seated. 

"Everything is under control. Our security team did everything they needed to do," the person said. 

He urged everyone to stay calm and file out of the sanctuary. He said one church member was harmed. 

"We had a gentleman that came in armed to do harm," the church leader says. 

In the chaos after the shooting, church members can be heard screaming and crying. 

One person yells, "I love you." 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement on the shooting, saying "Our hearts go out to the victims and families of those killed in the evil act of violence that occurred at the West Freeway Church of Christ. Places of worship are meant to be sacred, and I am grateful for the church members who acted quickly to take down the shooter and help prevent further loss of life."

State Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a tweet, "We are shocked and saddened to hear reports of a shooting at a church in White Settlement. As reports come in, please pray for any victims and their families, this congregation, and the law enforcement officials at the scene. My office will assist in any way needed."

This is a developing story and will be updated. The Associated Press contributed.