NORTH WALES, Pa. – Authorities say a dispute between two members of a suburban Philadelphia church during a Sunday worship service ended with one person shooting and killing the other.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said the disagreement escalated from an 11 a.m. “disturbance” at Keystone Fellowship Church in North Wales. Authorities didn’t say what the disturbance was or describe the crux of the disagreement at the evangelical church.
Police were called and found Robert Braxton, 27, of Montgomeryville, with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was rushed to Abington Lansdale Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after noon. An autopsy was scheduled for Monday.
Steele said the other man involved, who was treated at a hospital and released, was cooperating with police but was not in custody as investigators determine whether charges are warranted.
“We’re going to have to determine whether the shooting was justified under the law,” he said.
The man had a concealed carry permit for his semiautomatic handgun, he said. Braxton was unarmed as far as investigators know, but that was still under investigation, Steele said
“We don’t know what the relationship is between the two of them,” Steele said.
Keystone Fellowship Montgomeryville issued a statement saying officials were “saddened” by the shooting. “Our congregation is in prayer for everyone involved,” the statement said.
No video exists of the shooting, which occurred in between two seating areas, Steele said. He said investigators were still trying to determine what kind of disturbance led to the shooting, interviewing “hundreds” who were in the church.
“We’ve got a lot of interviews to do,” Steele said. “That’s ongoing, that’s going to take some time to do.”
The church earlier posted a notice on its Facebook page that appearing as a special guest speaker would be an unnamed “pastor serving in a country that is extremely hostile to the Christian faith.” The post said photos or videotaping would be forbidden “for our guest’s safety,” but Steele said the shooting appeared unrelated to any such speaker.
“I believe there was music playing while this went on, so I don’t think this was during a sermon portion of this or anything,” he said.
Breeana Somers, 24, of Lansdale, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that she heard some kind of fight going on between two men, and then three gunshots that sounded like champagne corks popping.
“I went under a chair in a fetal position,” she said. “I tried to make myself as small as possible. It’s really frightening that anything like this could happen here.”