Pastor, church members hailed as heroes in church shooting

The Oasis Tabernacle Church is seen in East Selma, Ala., on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. 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. (Alaina Denean Deshazo/The Selma Times-Journal via AP)
James Minter, James Junior Minter
This undated photo provided by the Selma Police Department shows James Minter. Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson says suspect Minter has been charged with three counts of attempted murder after allegedly shooting a woman, an infant and a pastor inside a church, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in East Selma, Ala. (Selma Police Department via AP)

EAST SELMA, Ala. (AP) — The pastor and members of the congregation that wrestled a gun away from a man police say opened fired in an Alabama church are being praised as heroes.

James Junior Minter, 26, is being held without bond in the shooting of his girlfriend, his infant son and the church pastor, Earl Carswell, who tried to intervene Sunday morning, according to Selma police Lt. Curtis Muhannad.

Minter was arrested shortly after he opened fire during a church service at Oasis Tabernacle Church in East Selma, Alabama.

“A whole lot more people could have been shot,” District Attorney Michael Jackson said, “They all played a heroic role.”

Witnesses told police Minter entered the white, single story church that sits on a tree lined, two-lane road and sat in the front row between his girlfriend and the baby, according to a statement released by the Selma Police Department. Minter then pulled out a handgun and started shooting, the statement said. The girlfriend, 24, 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.

Carswell, 61, then grabbed Minter and was shot in the leg. Members of the congregation helped subdue Minter and managed to wrest away his gun, according to police. Minter then ran out of the church.

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.

After he fled the scene, Minter was captured by police less than a mile away. His vehicle was left at the scene and a gun was recovered at the church, the statement said.

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

Former Selma Mayor and Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church minister James Perkins visited the scene and said he paused service at Ebenezer to pray for the victims Sunday morning.

“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 was being held at the Dallas County jail. The Selma Police Department said Minter has been charged with three counts of attempted murder and may face other charges.

Minter had been arrested before but details on the nature of his past encounters with police weren’t immediately available, Muhannad said. Authorities are also investigating whether Minter violated a protective order, Muhannad said.

Jackson said worshippers having to be alert and on guard in a place meant to be a sanctuary was a shameful commentary on society.

“We’ve reached the point where all churches are gonna have to have cameras and check for weapons,” he said. “That’s the way society is going now. It’s the world we live in now.”

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