Five dead, including three children, in Sacramento County church shooting
A man killed four people, including three of his children, before turning the gun on himself inside a church in the Sacramento suburbs on Monday evening, authorities said.
The explosion of gunfire took place in the sanctuary at the Church in Sacramento, on Wyda Way east of the city, shortly after 5 p.m., said Sgt. Rodney Grassmann, a spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.
The shooter, a 39-year-old man, took his own life, according to Grassmann, who said the children who were killed were girls ages 9, 10 and 13.
In a televised interview, Sheriff Scott Jones said the killings took place during a supervised visit between the father and his children inside the church.
The fifth person who was killed was a man supervising the visit, Grassmann said, but it was not immediately clear what that person’s relationship was to the church or family. It was also not clear whether the man and his children were members of the church or using the building as a neutral meeting location. Grassmann said it was likely a court-ordered visitation.
The children’s mother is alive and has been in contact with authorities, according to Jones, who said she had a restraining order against the gunman.
She was not believed to be in town at the time of the shooting and was notified by a law enforcement chaplain, Grassmann said. “The mom — I don’t know how you process it,” he said.
Police were called to the scene after a church worker heard gunfire, fled the building and dialed 911 at 5:07 p.m., Grassmann said.
“I could see that it has an affect on some of them,” Grassmann said of the officers who responded. “You could not go into a scene like that and not be affected.”
Neither Grassmann nor a coroner’s office spokeswoman could immediately identify the victims or the shooter. All were pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators were expected to be at the scene throughout the night collecting evidence, speaking to witnesses and looking for surveillance video.
Michael Baginski, who was described as a district leader on the church’s website, suggested the shooter was mentally ill and said the man shot his three daughters. Baginski was not at the scene and said the church was not holding services at the time of the shooting. He referred additional questions to another church leader, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As of 6:30 p.m., police said there was no longer an active threat in the area. As officers began to take down yellow emergency tape near the scene, neighbors flooded the area to try to find out what happened. Some feared the dead might have been acquaintances.
“It hurts to hear that a father shot his own three kids,” said Alicia Harmon, 16, who lives nearby and said she hoped the victims weren’t anyone she knew.
Harmon said many of her friends live close to the church, and she came down after her mother told her she might know some of those involved.
Lawmakers in Sacramento reacted to the shooting on social media.
“Another senseless act of gun violence in America — this time in our backyard. In a church with kids inside. Absolutely devastating,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted. “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and their communities.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), whose district includes the church, tweeted: “Tonight’s senseless shooting is a tragedy beyond words. My prayers are with the victims’ family, loved ones and the entire Sacramento community.
“In memory of all those we have lost, we must renew our resolve to build a world free from gun violence.”
Queally and Winton reported from Los Angeles and Garrison from Sacramento.
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