Richard Connor: Senseless violence can happen anywhere – and it does

West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement. (AP Photo/David Kent)

“The man who fatally shot two people at a Texas church was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial in 2012 and was repeatedly fed by the congregation before he grew angry because church officials refused to give him money, according to court records and the pastor.

“It’s unclear whether Keith Thomas Kinnunen’s extensive criminal record would have barred him from legally buying the shotgun he used during Sunday’s attack at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the Fort Worth-area town of White Settlement.

“Kinnunen, 43, shot worshipers Richard White and Anton “Tony” Wallace in the sanctuary before a member of the church’s volunteer security team shot and killed him, according to police and witnesses.” – Associated Press 

Well, we end 2019 with the knowledge that despite our unyielding conviction that Fort Worth/Tarrant County is a great place to live, there is no escaping the harsh reality that life here can be dangerous – as dangerous on any given day as in any other metropolitan area in America.

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A stunning and tragic reminder was brutally delivered just two days before year’s end when Keith Thomas Kinnunen of nearby River Oaks opened fire with a shotgun during Sunday services at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, fatally wounding two congregants before a member of the church’s volunteer security team killed the killer with a shot to the head.

We like to think such things happen somewhere else, not here. But as we saw on Sunday these things do happen here. In fact, they’ve happened here before. In 1999, a gunman killed seven people at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth before detonating an explosive device and killing himself.

It might be worthwhile to spend some time pondering such things as we nibble our New Year’s black-eyed peas and hope for good luck in 2020. Clearly, we will need more than black-eyed peas to turn back the tide of senseless violence that continues to tighten its grip on society.

I personally stand conflicted. Jack Wilson, who the Associated Press described as a 71-year-old firearms instructor who has served as a reserve sheriff’s deputy, fired the shot that ended what could have been a far worse rampage by a crazed killer but video of the church service shows that other members of the congregation had their guns drawn, ready to fire. Churchgoers packing heat?

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Arming parishioners in a church seems absurd to a baby boomer who grew up in less violent times but it is also difficult to argue against it when you consider the lives saved when Wilson gunned down Kinnunen just seconds after he launched his attack.

The pro-gun and the anti-gun folks jump on a situation such as this to argue their respective positions. I find such gross opportunism just that – gross. But there’s no restraining the true believers.

So, yes, life in and around Fort Worth is unique and the quality of life is expansive. But in the end, we are just like every other city two decades into a century in which life seems increasingly fragile rather than more secure.

It’s a dark view to take into 2020. But these are dark times.

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Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at