A gunman opened fire during a Saturday morning wedding ceremony at a New Hampshire Pentecostal church, striking two people before fast-thinking guests “gang tackled” and “subdued the shooter” until police arrived, Pelham Police Chief Joseph Roark said.
The suspect, identified as 37-year-old Dale Halloway, has been arrested and charged with five offenses including first degree assault for “knowingly causing bodily injury” when he shot Bishop Stanley Choate in the chest, according to a press release from Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald.
He was also charged with attempted murder of the bishop, carrying a firearm as a convicted felon, second degree assault for shooting a woman in the arm, and assault for striking a third victim in the head with a firearm, according to MacDonald.
Police have not revealed any potential motive but said the shooting was not random.
“A coward walked into my family’s church today at NEP New England Pentecostal Church and shot my uncle Bishop Stanley Choate I call for anyone that knows and believes and In the GOD we serve to get on your knees and pray for my family,” Neivia Choate, the niece of the church's bishop, wrote on Facebook Saturday.
Police responded to the New England Pentecostal Church just after 10 a.m. to find a man and a woman suffering from gunshot wounds. Roark said churchgoers “tackled” the shooter just after he opened fire and detained him until authorities arrived to the scene.
Bishop Choate, who was shot in the upper chest during the attack at the church located about 30 minutes outside of Boston, was listed in serious condition at Tufts Medical Center as of Saturday evening. There were no additional updates on the bishop’s condition as of Sunday.
Authorities said two other guests also suffered injuries. Claire McMullen, 60, was treated for a gunshot wound to the arm and was listed in good condition late Saturday. McMullen is expected to be released from a local hospital on Sunday. Mark Castiglione, 60, was struck over the head with an object and was released after receiving treatment at a local hospital.
The State Police Major Crime Unit told The Daily Beast they are also involved in the investigation, but did not provide any details.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu tweeted Saturday that “state officials are on scene assisting local first responders in the response and investigation of a shooting in Pelham, NH,” adding that the “incident remains a very active scene.”
The shooting comes as congregants were preparing Saturday for a “celebration of life” services for former ordained minister Luis Garcia who was found shot to death inside his home on October 1.
During the press conference, Roark did not make any connection between Garcia’s murder and the Saturday morning shooting.
“To have something like this in such a short span of time, from what happened last week, is just tragic,” one former parishioner told WBZ, about Garcia's murder last month. WCVB reported one churchgoing who planned to attend the celebration of life even got call from his aunt saying “don’t come to the church, the Bishop has been shot.”
— Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this story