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Pa. church shooting: member charged with manslaughter

NORTH WALES, Pa. (BP) — A member of a Philadelphia Southern Baptist church has been charged with voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the shooting death of a fellow church member during a worship service April 24.

Mark Storms, 46, allegedly shot and killed 27-year-old Robert Braxton during an altercation in the worship center of Keystone Fellowship’s campus in North Wales, Pa., shortly after the 11 a.m. service began.

Keystone released a statement to Baptist Press April 28 thanking Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele’s office “for its careful and thorough work in processing the evidence pertaining to this case.” The congregation also thanked “our community for the tremendous outpouring of support during this difficult time.”

According to reports by the Associated Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Braxton allegedly became disruptive when a fellow worship attendee told him he was in an occupied seat. After church leaders tried unsuccessfully to calm Braxton, Storms showed Braxton his permit to carry a firearm and asked him to leave.

Braxton then punched Storms in the face, and Storms shot him twice with a semi-automatic handgun, the Inquirer reported. Steele said Storms, who had no official position in the church, told police he was “trying to stop him because I was afraid he was going to hurt me and other people.”

Steele told reporters, “It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to bring a gun to church.” He added that the manner in which Storms flashed his carry permit could have given people the incorrect impression he had an official role in law enforcement or with the church.

Keystone said it has not answered questions about the shooting “out of respect for the investigation being conducted by the district attorney” and “as [Steele’s office] requested of us.”

“We were asked to allow them to conduct their investigation unimpeded by our interference, and we were asked by them to allow them to release these details at the appropriate time,” the church stated. “In the meantime, we have been focused exclusively on ministering to the hurting, especially the Braxton family. It is the district attorney’s job to administer justice, and it is our job to help those affected cope with this terrible tragedy. We have been ‘weeping with those who weep’ (Romans 12:15).”

Storms was arraigned April 28 and ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bail.