WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — The sister of the troubled transient man who opened fire inside of a Texas church on Sunday, killing two before being taken down by a security guard within seconds, says that he likely carried out the attack because he was haunted by his brother’s suicide and that day was his brother’s birthday.
“[I]t was Sunday. It was his brother’s birthday, and he just — demons just ended up getting ahold of him,” Amy Kinnunen, who lives in Oklahoma, told local television station KJRH.
She explained to reporters that her brother, Joel Kinnunen, then 30, died 10 years ago from a drug overdose.
Her other brother, Keith, 43, “was a lost soul that had demons from a childhood,” and even though the family was brought up in a Christian home, it wasn’t until Joel died that Keith began to think on matters of faith.
He had been in and out of jail on a number of occasions since 1998.
“He’s been arrested and charged numerous times in Tucson, Arizona; Fort Worth, Texas; and Grady County, Oklahoma, where he was arrested in a domestic violence case in 2011 and charged with felony aggravated assault and battery,” Heavy reports.
“He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and given credit for already serving that time. In 2012, he was arrested again in Oklahoma and charged with third-degree arson.”
Kinnunen also was arrested on theft, narcotics and disorderly conduct charges, and his first wife took out a restraining order against him, likewise advising that he believed he had a demon.
“Keith is a violent, paranoid person with a long line of assault and batteries with and without firearms. He is a religious fanatic; says he’s battling a demon. He is not nice to anyone,” she wrote in court documents, according to NBC News Dallas-Fort Worth.
His second wife told reporters that she knew he was mentally ill and that the last time she spoke with him — three years ago — he “wasn’t right in his mind,” but she didn’t know what to say or do to help him.
According to reports, Kinnunen had visited West Freeway Church of Christ several times to ask for food and/or money, which was not unusual for the location, as the homeless would come there for assistance. He was provided with food and compassion, but would get “mad when we won’t give him cash,” according to minister Britt Farmer.
And while Kinnunen began to look to the Lord in 2009 following his brother’s death, “[h]e just got broken and nobody could fix him,” childhood friend Bill McGaughey told the New York Times. “I think he just wanted to be done with life.”
“Why he did it this way, I have no idea,” his sister Amy stated. “He did it in the church because he was extremely religious, and I feel like that I’m confident that he was praying to the good Lord up to the last minute.”
Kinnunen entered the church wearing a fake beard and a wig, and hiding his rifle under a trench coat. Because of his disguise, the church security team kept an eye on him, and a security camera was turned toward him.
During communion, Kinnunen approached deacon Tony Wallace, 64. It is not known what was said. Richard White, 67 and a member of the security team, purposefully sat nearby as he kept watch of the suspicious individual. When he saw Kinnunen pull out a weapon, he rose to his feet, drawing his gun and yelling “Drop it!”
Kinnunen shot the two men, and Jack Wilson, 71, a firearms instructor and former reserve deputy sheriff, quickly sprung into action, taking Kinnunen down with a single shot within seconds. At least four or five other armed members also descended upon the gunman to ensure that no one else would be hurt.
“The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church,” Wilson later wrote to social media. “I am very sad in the loss of two dear friends and brothers in Christ, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed.”
According to reports, a letter to Kinnunen’s son was found next to his body.
Amy Kinnunen says that she understands that Wilson did what he had to do, adding, “I think my brother wanted it to go down the way it went down, unfortunately.”
Tiffany Wallace, the daughter of slain deacon Anthony Wallace, ran to her father upon realization that he had been shot. She told him that she loved him and held onto him.
“You just wonder why. How can someone so evil, the devil, just step into the church and do this?” she told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. “[T]he fact that it hit our home and someone that supports us and loves us, and is our dad [is gone], that’s what hurts the most.”
But in the midst of her shock and grief, she says that she still forgives Kinnunen, even though it is not easy.
“I forgive him, and that’s the hardest thing to say.”