Robert Findlay Smith

Robert Findlay Smith (71) has shot and killed three people attending an evening potluck service at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.  On 16 June 2022, approximately 25 people attended a “Boomer’s Potluck” at the suburban Birmingham parish. The Rev. Doug Carpenter, who founded the church in 1973 and retired in 2005 told, that a man calling himself “Mr. Smith” was sitting alone when the dinner began shortly after 5:00 pm.

Walter “Bart” Rainey (84) approached Smith and asked him to join his table. Smith declined and at 6:22 pm Smith drew a handgun and shot Mr. Rainey, Mrs. Sarah Yeager (75) and Mrs. Jane Pounds (84). Mr. Rainey and Mrs. Yeager were pronounced dead at the scene, while Mrs. Pound died in hospital on 17 June 2022.

Jim Musgrove, a member of the church, attacked the gunmen and disarmed him after he hit him with a chair. Mr. Musgrove then wrestled Smith to the ground and held him until police arrived.  Smith was not a member of the congregation, but some present recall seeing him at the Good Friday service this year. Smith remains in police custody. His motive have not yet been disclosed. He has been charged with three counts of capital murder and is being held without bond at the Jefferson County jail.

Saint Stephen’s rector, the Rev. John Burruss, posted a video message on Facebook responding to the shooting. Fr. Burruss who is on holiday in the UK asked for prayers and support for the congregation.

In a June 17 statement, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry encouraged Episcopalians to pray “for those affected by the shooting at St. Stephen’s—and for all victims of gun violence.”

“Even as I write, I am on the way to the commemoration of the nine who were martyred in 2015 at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The plague of gun violence in the United States affects us all, and now it has affected a congregation in The Episcopal Church,” he said.