UPDATE: Birmingham man charged with shooting death in Saint Stephen’s – Shelby County Reporter
By EMILY SPARACINO | Personal editor
BIRMINGHAM – A Birmingham man has been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting that occurred at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills on Thursday June 16.
On Friday, June 17, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office issued warrants for Robert Findlay Smith, 70, following the deaths of three victims in the shooting.
Smith is being held in Jefferson County Jail without bond.
“District Attorney Danny Carr and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office are saddened by the tragedy that occurred Thursday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church,” read a news release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims and the entire Vestavia Hills community. We appreciate all of the law enforcement agencies, first responders and medical personnel who responded. Please keep the families of the victims and the community of Vestavia Hills in your prayers over the coming days. »
At a news conference on the morning of June 17, Vestavia Hills Police Department Captain Shane Ware identified two of the deceased victims as Sarah Yeager, 75, of Pelham, and Walter Rainey, 84, of Irondale.
Rainey died at the scene and Yeager died at UAB Hospital, Ware said.
At 1:21 p.m. on June 17, the Vestavia Hills Police Department confirmed that the third victim, an 84-year-old woman, had died after being transported from the scene to UAB Hospital for treatment on the evening of June 16. .
“The victim’s family requests that we withhold his name for privacy reasons,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are continually with the victims, their families and all those affected by this tragic event.”
The Vestavia Hills Police Department and Vestavia Hills Fire Department responded to an active shooter call at 6:22 p.m. at the church, located at 3775 Crosshaven Drive in the community of Cahaba Heights.
“The church was having a small group meeting, called the Boomers Pot Luck Dinner,” Ware said. “Our ongoing investigation has revealed that a casual church attendee who I will only identify as a 71-year-old white male was at the dinner party. At one point he pulled a gun from concealed fist and began firing, hitting all three victims.
According to Ware, another event attendee subdued the suspect and held him down until law enforcement arrived on the scene.
“The person who subdued the suspect, in my opinion, is a hero,” Ware said. “I don’t know how many people were present at the meeting at the time of the event, but the person who subdued it is a hero.”
Ware said the motive for the suspect’s actions is still under investigation.
“The suspect acted alone,” Ware said. “There is no threat to the community. Detectives from the VHPD and many other agencies are still actively investigating this case and remain at the Episcopal Church scene.
Vestavia Hills Mayor Ashley Curry expressed condolences to the victims and their families, and expressed gratitude to those who reached out to support the community.
“Vestavia Hills is a tight-knit, resilient, and loving community, and I mean — first and foremost — our prayers go out to the victims and families affected by this senseless act of violence,” Curry said at the press conference. “Our Vestavia Hills chaplains, along with members of St. Stephen’s and other local churches, are providing bereavement support to families and first responders who were at the scene of this horrific act. We also greatly appreciate all the external agencies and local businesses that have offered to help. Our police, with the help of other law enforcement agencies, handled this crisis in an exemplary manner, and I am grateful for the mutual support and cooperation between all the agencies involved.
Many local and federal agencies offered assistance to the VHPD during the investigation: Mountain Brook Police and Fire Department, Shelby County 911, Hoover Police and Fire Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, County Sheriff’s Office of Shelby, FBI, ATF, USMS, Pelham Police Department, ALEA, Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, and Rocky Ridge Fire Department.