One daughter of a deacon senselessly murdered in a shooting at a suburban Texas church on Sunday is moving in the spirit of forgiveness following the burst of violence that cut short the life of her dad.
Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64, was one of two people killed over the weekend when a gunman opened fire inside the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, just outside Fort Worth. It was all caught on video, showing the moment suspect Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43, calmly stood up and started shooting.
A grieving Tiffany Wallace saw her father’s life taken before her very eyes.
“He was amazing,” she told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth of her dad, a registered nurse and lifelong member of West Freeway. “He was a godly person, and even when we talked about going to heaven he always said, ‘I am always prepared.’ But you never thought this would happen.”
Wallace said she’s left wondering how someone so evil could step into a church and kill, describing the gunman as “the devil.” Through her heartbreak, however, the 32-year-old says there’s still room for forgiveness.
“I forgive him [the gunman], and that’s the hardest thing to say,” she added.
Recalling the events of that day, Wallace said everything happened so fast. She said her father had just finished serving communion in the back of the church when she noticed a stranger who she’d never seen before approach him.
“The guy just stood up from the pew, turned toward my dad and I guess he shot at the security guard,” she said.
Amid the chaos and confusion, Wallace said she quickly realized her father was hit. So she sprang into action and tried to help as much as she could.
“The last thing I remember is him asking for oxygen, and I was just holding him, telling him I loved him and that he was going to make it,” she told the outlet.
The elder Wallace was rushed to a local hospital but died from his injuries.
The family of slain man Botham Jean took a somewhat similar route of forgiveness, showing grace and mercy to the former Dallas cop charged in his murder. At the policewoman’s sentencing, Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, expressed empathy toward Amber Guyger and even gave her a hug, a shocking move that was decried by many.
Police said Kinnunen, who had a lengthy criminal history that includes charges of assault, arson and theft, was wearing a disguise when he got up, pulled a shotgun from under his clothes and opened fire inside the crowded church, killing Wallace and 67-year-old Richard White, an armed member of the church’s volunteer security team who was reaching for his own gun when he was hit, according to reports. Another parishioner on the church’s volunteer security team returned fire, killing the suspect.
“He is a hero to me,” Tiffany Wallace said of the volunteer guard who killed Kinnunen. “I’m just glad everybody’s OK. I know my dad is up there with his sister, his parents. He’s just in peace now.”
Authorities are still working to identify a motive in the attack.