Chilling details on Vestavia Hills church 'shooter' Robert Smith as it's revealed he went to services before 'killing 3' | The Sun

A SUSPECT has been charged with capital murder in connection to the deaths of three people at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Thursday.

Robert Findlay Smith, 70, is currently in custody and is being held with no bond at the Jefferson County Jail.

District Attorney Danny Carr issued the capital murder warrants on Friday afternoon after the deaths of Walter Rainey, Sarah Yeager and Jane Pounds.

The three were shot at the church, said officials from Vestavia Hills Police. 

Rainey, 84, was pronounced dead the scene while the other two victims were taken to the hospital.

Yeager, 75, died shortly after arriving to the hospital for treatment.

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The third shooting victim, Jane Pounds, 84, died on Friday, according to law enforcement.

Smith had allegedly entered the church and began firing gunshots during a potluck dinner.

"The suspect has previously attended services at this church but as far as the motive behind this, it’s still being looked into by many agencies," said Vestavia Hills Police Captain Shane Ware.

He had occasionally attended church services in the past, but no motive has been released so far.

Reverend Doug Carpenter, who founded the church, said that another member of the church subdued the shooter by hitting him with a chair and wrestling the gun from him, according to local outlet

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“It was extremely critical in saving lives,’’ said Ware.

“In my opinion, he’s a hero,” he added of the church member.

Court records obtained by showed that Smith was accused of multiple DUIs but did not have a criminal history involving violent crimes.

In 2005, he was charged with possession of a handgun while intoxicated, but the charge was later dropped.

Public records show that Smith works out of his home as a licensed firearms dealer.

His business is called Original Magazines 2. reports that Smith was known to police, who reportedly knew his address and the vehicle he drives.


The gunman, who came into the church at 6.22pm, interrupted a church event.

People were enjoying a "Boomer's potluck" when the gunfire erupted.

Smith was reportedly sitting alone at the event and refused an invitation from a longtime church member to come sit at a table, according to the teverend.

“At some point, he produced a concealed handgun and began shooting, striking the three victims,’’ the police captain said.

“The suspect has previously attended services at this church but as far as the motive behind this, it’s still being looked into by many agencies.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to speculate.”


Rev Kelley Hudlow, a priest at the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, described the terrifying scene and aftermath.

"This happens in other places. You just don't think it's going to happen here in the Birmingham area," Hudlow said.

"And so it is shocking."

Hudlow also urged the community to come together during the difficult time.

"We're connected to a network of churches across the world," she said.

"And so we're getting messages from people from all over the United States and around the world, praying for this community tonight," Hudlow told CBS News.

Alabama Gov Kay Ivey denounced the shooting in a statement, calling it "shocking and tragic" while also saying that this shouldn't happen anywhere.

The reactions came as a heartbreaking photo showed a priest running from the scene as three people were gunned down.

On Thursday evening, a group held a prayer circle in the church's parking lot.

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"You are seeing healing, with those folks standing together," WBRC anchor Jonathan Hardison said.

The FBI, US Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives are assisting local agencies in the investigation.

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