Just as a congregation in Lakeland, Fla., bowed their heads to pray, a man rushed in and shot two pastors. Church members tackled the suspect, obtained his gun and held him down until the police arrived.
Authorities say Jeremiah Fogle, 57, opened fire at Greater Faith Christian Center Church on Sunday after shooting and killing his wife, Theresa Fogle, at their home.
Fogle was charged with murder and attempted murder. In a hearing on Monday he was ordered to be held without bond and assigned a public defender, the Associated Press reports.
Fogle was charged in 1986 with shooting and killing a previous wife, Diane Fogle, after police found him holding a rifle while she was covered in blood on a blanket on their bedroom floor, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
His first-degree murder charges were dropped down to manslaughter and he was given 10 years' probation after entering a plea agreement.
Derrick Foster, a teacher at Greater Faith, told the AP he heard gunfire and screams and tackled Fogle with another man.
“The first thing in my mind was, `I have to take this gun away,'” Foster said. “He had a great grip on the gun. My plan was, as soon as he hit the floor, it would cause him to drop it. But he didn't drop it.”
Foster said it took three or four minutes of struggling before he could finally get the gun away.
The gunman had six rounds in his pocket. “He was prepared to shoot even more,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Authorities said pastor William Boss and associate pastor Carl Stewart were shot from behind. Boss was shot in the head and Stewart was shot three times in the back and the ear.
True Crime Report reported Monday that Stewart suffered a collapsed lung and Boss is in intensive care. Both remained hospitalized Monday.
According to the AP, church member Anthony Hudson visited the pastors Monday and said they were in good spirits.
“Minister Stewart, I got to shake his hand and I saw him with his eyes open and lit up. That made me feel real good to know he was doing well,” Hudson said.
No one else in the church was hurt.
Barbara Neal, who lives near the church, stopped by to see if she could help, but the church and school properties were empty.
“To hear this, I mean in the Lord's house of all places, that's despicable,” AP reported 59-year-old Neal, who does not attend the church but has a grandchild at the church's school, saying.
Fogle and his 56-year-old wife, Theresa, were married at the Lakeland church in 2002. They were parishioners of the church until they started their own ministry out of their home, which met Sunday nights.
Church members suggested to deputies that they check on Theresa, who they found dead in the Fogle's home a block away from the church.
“We don't know exactly why he went into this mad rage,” Judd said.
Theresa Fogle's sister Maria Beauford said she had never known Fogle to be violent toward her sister, AP reports. She said he was sick over the last year and Theresa Fogle nursed him back to health.
“We have no idea what his motive was,” she told AP. “We just have no idea.”
Beauford also said her family did not know about Jeremiah Fogle's past marriages or criminal record and her sister probably did not know either.
Theresa Fogle's marriage had been a shock, Beauford said, because it came soon after her previous husband died from cancer. Although their families had known each other through church in the 1970s and '80s, Beauford didn't know her sister and Fogle were reacquainted until they announced their marriage.
“She did not know everything, and if she did, she didn't tell anyone about it,” Beauford said. “He always gave us the impression that he was jovial, happy, glad to see us. That's why we're still in shock.”