FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Seven people — four teenagers and three adults — were killed Sept. 15, 1999, when a gunman entered the sanctuary at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
About 150 people were in the sanctuary for an area-wide rally for the annual See You at the Pole prayer event, celebrating earlier rallies held at school flagpoles around the nation.
The group of mostly teenagers was being led in worship by a Christian band when Larry Ashbrook, 47, of a Fort Worth suburb walked in with 200 rounds of ammunition and a pipe bomb and started shooting, telling the students to be quiet and stop moving around.
As Ashbrook was reloading, a 19-year-old stood up and said, “Sir, I know what you need. You need Jesus Christ in your life.” The gunman, described by his brother as a “paranoid schizophrenic,” then sat down on a back pew and killed himself.
Those who died were:
— Cassandra Griffin, 14, who had invited several friends to attend that night.
— Justin Ray, 17, a high school senior who was videotaping the event.
— Kristi Beckel, 14, a freshman at a Christian school.
— Joseph Ennis, 14, a freshman in high school.
— Kim Jones, 23, a master of divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with an interest in missions.
— Shawn Brown, 23, a master of arts in Christian education student at Southwestern preparing for youth ministry.
— Sydney Browning, 36, a 1991 graduate of Southwestern with a master of arts in religious education who led the church’s children’s choir.
During an appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live” the day after the shootings, Al Meredith, the church’s pastor, characterized the time as one of immense grief and heartache for the victims’ families, but he said those who were killed have an eternal home in heaven.
“We know exactly where they are,” Meredith said. “Jesus Christ Himself said that He was the resurrection and the life, and whoever lives and believes in Jesus Christ would never die. Though our bodies pass away, our soul and our spirit are forever with Him.
“And so we grieve, but not as those who have no hope,” he added. “Our hope is in Jesus Christ, and that is a confidence that in the midst of a tragedy like this grows stronger as we band together. It’s not whistling in the dark. It is a confidence born out of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.
For complete Baptist Press coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Wedgwood shootings, go to http://bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=158.