From The Tribune staff reports
VESTAVIA HILLS — A 70-year-old man has been charged in the Vestavia Hills church shooting that occurred on Thursday, June 16, at approximately 6:22 p.m.
According to the Jefferson County Jail, Robert Findlay Smith, of Birmingham, was booked into the Jefferson County Jail on Friday, June 17, at approximately 3:33 p.m. Smith is being charged with capital murder because two or more people were killed in the shooting. He is being held with no bond.
Officers responded to an active shooter call at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church located at 3775 Crosshaven Drive in Vestavia Hills, according to a statement from Vestavia Hills Police Department (VHPD).
Related Story: UPDATE: Second victim dies after shooting at Vestavia Hills church
“The church was hosting a small group meeting referred to as a boomers potluck dinner,” Vestavia Hills Captain Shane Ware said. “Our investigation, while ongoing has revealed that an occasional attendee of the church that I will only identify as a white male, aged 70, was at the dinner. At some point, he produced a handgun and began shooting striking three victims.”
Ware said that three people were injured and two people are dead. During a press conference this morning at 9:30 a.m. Ware identified the victims as Walter Rainey, 84, of Irondale, and Sarah Yeager, 75, of Pelham.
Rainey was pronounced dead at the scene and Yeager succumbed to her injuries at UAB Hospital.
An 84-year-old Hoover woman, was taken to UAB Hospital, and later succumbed to her injuries.
“It is with great sadness that the Vestavia Hills Police Department reports the passing of the third shooting victim from Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church,” the VHPD Facebook page states. “The family of the victim asks that we do not release her name for reasons of privacy. Our thoughts and prayers continuously go out to the victims, their families, and all who are affected by this tragic event.”
“Another attendee at the event subdued the suspect and held him down until law enforcement arrived,” Ware said. “The suspect is currently in custody at the Vestavia Hills police department and will rain here while warrants for capital murder are issued by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office later today.”
VHPD believes the suspect acted alone, and there is no threat to the community.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the numerous law enforcement and firefighting agencies, both local and federal, that have responded to assist us in our response to this call and to this investigation,” Ware said during a press conference. “That would include the Mountain Brook Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, the Hoover Police Department, the Pelham Police Department, the FBI, the ATF, the US Marshal Service, the Rocky Ridge Fire Department, the Mountain Brook Fire Department, and the Hoover Fire Department.”
Vestavia Mayor Ashley Curry said that Vestavia Hills is a close-knit, resilient, loving community.
“I want to state first and foremost, that our prayers go out to the victims and the families affected by this senseless act of violence,” Curry said. “Our Vestavia Hills chaplains, along with members of St. Stephen’s and other local churches are providing grief support for the families and the first responders that were present at the scene of this horrific event. We also greatly appreciate all of the external agencies and local businesses who have offered their assistance. Our police, with assistance from other law enforcement agencies, handle this crisis in an exemplary manner. I’m grateful for the mutual aid and cooperation between all the agencies involved.”
Detectives with the VHPD and other agencies are still actively investigating this case and remain on-scene at the Episcopal Church.
Authorities ask anyone with information in connection to the incident to contact the Vestavia Hills Police Department at 205-978-0140.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.