2 people shot before wedding guests tackle gunman at New Hampshire church, police say

2 people shot before wedding guests tackle gunman at New Hampshire church, police say

Wedding guests “gang-tackled” a man who opened fire and injured two people Saturday morning at a wedding ceremony at a church in Pelham, New Hampshire, according to local police.

A gunman is in custody after two people were shot and taken to nearby hospitals, said Pelham police chief Joseph Roark at a media briefing Saturday afternoon. The victims’ conditions are unknown. 

Wedding guests “gang-tackled” a man who opened fire and injured two people Saturday morning at a wedding ceremony at a church in Pelham, New Hampshire, according to local police.

A gunman is in custody after two people were shot and taken to nearby hospitals, said Pelham police chief Joseph Roark at a media briefing Saturday afternoon. The victims’ conditions are unknown. 

The shooting occurred at New England Pentecostal church in Pelham, a city of 13,000 in southeast New Hampshire near the Massachusetts border. 

“From my understanding, they basically gang-tackled them,” Roark said.

Police said third person sustained minor injuries and was also taken to a nearby hospital.

Lowell General Hospital in Massachusetts confirmed that one patient had been admitted shortly after the incident and then transferred to a hospital in Boston by Saturday afternoon. The hospital could not provide information on the patient’s condition. Two other victims were taken to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, police said. 

Pelham police received a call about an active shooter at 10:12 a.m., and officers responded within three minutes, Roark said.

Roark said the suspect, armed with a handgun, arrived after the wedding had begun. Police estimated that about 40 people were in attendance.

“This does not seem to be a random event,” Roark said.

Police did not release any information about the wedding parties or their relationship to the gunman.

Roark said he did not know if any of the guests were armed, but that police had provided active shooter training to the church within the past year.

Lowell resident Darius Mitchell told USA TODAY that his friend of 30 years, Bishop Stanley Choate, was one of the two people shot. According to Mitchell, Choate was taken to Lowell General, where his niece was working, and then flown to Boston.

Many people took to social media to call for prayers for the bishop’s speedy recovery.

Choate presides over New England Pentecostal Ministries and serves as Chair Person of the New England Coalition for Racial Harmony, according to the church’s website. He is also an accomplished playwright composer and poet, the website says.

A large police presence, including fire trucks, ambulances, and state and local police, gathered outside the church Saturday.

“State officials are on scene assisting local first responders in the response and investigation of a shooting in Pelham, NH,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a tweet. “While this remains a very active scene, the State of New Hampshire will provide all necessary resources to support the community and our local partners.”

It was initially unclear what event was taking place at the church at the time of the shooting. According to the church’s website, a “men and women meeting” tied to Domestic Abuse Month was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

Others initially thought the shooting might be tied to a funeral service. One man told WBZ-TV that he was at the church to attend a noon celebration of life service for a late minister.

Earlier this month, Luis Garcia, an ordained minister at New England Pentecostal Ministries, died after being shot in the neck, according to WBUR-TV. A 24-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death.

“I’m deeply disturbed to hear about the shooting in Pelham this morning. Today was supposed to serve as a celebration of the life of Minister Luis Garcia. This senseless violence can’t continue — my prayers are with the victims of this terrible attack,” New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a tweet.

New England Pentecostal Ministries could not be reached for comment.

Pelham is located just north of Lowell and is about 40 miles south of Concord, New Hampshire. According to 2010 census data, Pelham had a population of nearly 13,000. 

(Photo: Siobhan Lopez, AP)(Photo: Siobhan Lopez, AP) Wendell Teodoro, WireImage Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP via Getty Images Lillian Suwanrumpha, AFP via Getty Images Ozan Kose, AFP via Getty Images Biju Boro, AFP via Getty Images Nick Wagner, Austin American-Statesman via AP Lee Jin-man, AP Ian Langsdon, EPA-EFE Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE Gniewomir Lubczyk, EPA-EFE