In or near U.S. churches
1974 to 1999-JUL
Killings in or at American churches 1974 to 1999:
Killings in or at American churches
1974 to 1999:
||Ebenezer Baptist Church
||First Baptist Church
||New St. John Fellowship Baptist
Korean United Methodist 1
1974-JUN: church killing in Atlanta, GA:
Mrs. Alberta Christine Williams King (1903-1974) was the daughter and mother
of Christian ministers. She was also the wife of Martin Luther King Sr.
Mrs. King was the musical director at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, from 1932 until her death.
Marcus Chennault (1951-1995) of Dayton OH murdered her during a Sunday church
service. He was described as a "young black man", 2
and a "deranged gunman." He "stood up from a pew
inside the church as she played "The Lord's Prayer," and shot her.
1 Edward Boykin, a church deacon, was also killed; another
man in the congregation was wounded. 2 The gunman's original
goal was to kill Martin Luther King Sr. Chennault believed that black Christian
ministers were deceiving African-Americans. He was convicted and sentenced
to death. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
1980-JUN: church killing in Daingerfield, TX:
Alvin Lee King, was an apparently mentally unstable individual who was an Atheist, held a PhD in psychology, and appeared to be prone to committing
criminal acts. In 1966, he accidentally killed his father with a shotgun. One week
before going to trial on a charge of allegedly molesting his daughter, he tied
his wife to the kitchen table, dressed in a military uniform, picked up rifles
and pistols, went to the First Baptist Church, entered the church, and
yelled "This is war." Within ten seconds, he had killed five
parishioners (one child of 7, three men and one woman). 12 were wounded (some
sources say 10 or 11). Some men in the congregation pushed King out of the
sanctuary; some died while doing this. King ran to a fire station and shot himself in
the head. This first attempt at suicide was unsuccessful. He was arrested.
Two years later, he hung himself in jail. His case never went to trial. 3,4,5
In an eerily strange coincidence, some young people at the church had
organized a demonstration a few weeks before the tragedy. They dressed in
military clothing and carried rifles into the church, pretending to be
communists who were there to outlaw Christianity. They took people captive,
removed them from the room and pretended to shoot them. When Alvin King broke into the
service, some of the parishioners thought that the youth play was being
1999-MAR: church killing in Gonzales, LA:
Shon Miller Sr., 22, allegedly killed his mother-in-law, Mildred Vessel. He
then went to his wife's church during the Wednesday night service. "He
first shot two bullets straight up, then told everyone to get down as he headed
deliberately to the front in search of his estranged wife. He found her on the
fourth row." 6 He killed his wife, Carla Vessel
Miller and his son Shon Miller Jr. Finally he started shooting at random, killing another
parishioner and wounding four others. He calmly stopped to reload in the middle
of the killing spree. The suspect was later shot and wounded by police. He was paralyzed
by one of the bullets. Church
leaders said that they would never use the building again.
1999-JUL: church killing in Bloomington, IN:
On 1999-JUL-3/4, a senior member of the Creativity
Movement (formerly called the World Church of the Creator W.C.O.T.C.), Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, went on a shooting rampage
through the mid-west, killing one African-American and one Korean-American. Six
orthodox Jews and three African-Americans were wounded. Smith then committed
suicide. His church organization promotes a plan whereby whites
would take over the world. Their
slogan is RAHOWA (RAcial HOly WAr). They teach hatred of Jews, gays, lesbians,
African-Americans and all other non-whites. But when one of their members murders
or assaults a member of a racial minority, they claim that they do not promote
violence, and thus are in no way responsible for the attacks. Matt Hale, head of the
W.C.O.T.C, was asked what he had to say
to Smith's surviving victims and the families of the people who died, he
commented: "We really just don't have anything to say to them. And
that's part of our church. We do not socialize with the other races."
The Korean-American murder victim was Won-Joon Yoon, age 26. He was shot on
JUL-4 outside his church in Bloomington IN. He would have begun his doctorate in
economics at Indiana University in the fall of 1999.
The mayor of Bloomington, John Fernandez, spoke at Won-Joon's funeral. He
said, in part:
"Mr. Yoon [Sr.] asks a very poignant question, and people have been
contemplating for some time as to how America is being torn apart. I believe
that an equally important question to ask is, 'What are we doing to hold it
together?'...To keep our country from being torn apart by racial hatred, we
must act, to continue to send the message of tolerance and peace in a
nonviolent and dignified way."
The Anti-Defamation League had monitored Benjamin
Smith for over a year prior to his rampage. Spokesperson Harlan Loeb, said:
"His rhetoric was fairly inflammatory, but until this episode, it
was substantially rhetoric. What it tells you is the consequences of words
can be fairly significant, the consequences of hate and creed can be very,
Won-Joon Yoon was killed by a stranger because of his race. It is possible
that the murderer drove to the Korean Church in the hopes of targeting
Korean-American individuals. Yoon was targeted because of his race, not his
religion. The killing could have happened at a Korean community center, or on any
street that Won-Joon Yoon happened to be walking beside. This was a killing
motivated by racism, but inspired by religious belief towards non-whites.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Ebenezer Baptist Church Atlanta, GA," at: http://www.chapel-music.com/Installations/Ebenezer/
"Atlanta History Center," at: http://insiders.com/atlanta/main-attractions2.htm
Untitled web page at: http://serialkiller.systemy.it/mirror/murder1.html
"FW attack brings back memories of 1980 shooting in East Texas,"
1999-SEP-16, Dallas Morning News, at: http://www.dallasnews.com/metro/churchshooting/
"First Baptist Church," at: http://www.angelfire.com/tx/yainkee/king.html
"Church murders shock community, prompt action from neighboring
churches," Christian Daily News, 1999-MAR-18 at: http://www.christiandailynews.org/archives/31899/news/
"The Benjamin Nathaniel Smith story," StarNews.com at: http://www.starnews.com/news/special/shootings/
"The hate crimes question," 1999-AUG-11, PBS NewsHour
on 1999-AUG-11, at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec99/
Sharon Cohen, "Reconstructing the shooting spree,"
Associated Press, 1999-JUL-6. Online at: http://wire.ap.org/
Copyright © 1999 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 1999-SEP-28
Latest update: 2008-JUL-31
Author: B.A. Robinson