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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK


World: Americas

FBI joins US shooting probe

Police and FBI agents outside Ashbrook's house

Federal officers in Texas have described the man who killed seven worshippers in a Baptist church in Fort Worth as a loner and a "very troubled man".


The BBC's Peter Gould: "The motive for the shootings remains unclear"
Detectives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) joined local police in searching the house of 47-year-old Larry Gene Ashbrook.

Inside, they found a "shambles" of ammunition boxes, ripped-up photographs and old diaries.


[ image: Ashbrook:
Ashbrook: "A very troubled man"
"This has the appearance of being a very troubled man who for whatever reason in his own mind sought to quiet whatever demons were bothering him," said FBI agent Bob Garrity.

The FBI revealed that Mr Ashbrook had bought his gun from a flea market just outside Fort Worth. Texas law does not require a license for a gun purchase.

The local police chief said that there was "no indication that he had been involved in any hate groups or racial groups or anything of that sort".

Vigils

Across Fort Worth, people lit candles and held vigils in memory of those killed in Wednesday's shooting.

Hundreds packed the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to pray and sing Amazing Grace.

Murder in Atlanta
US President Bill Clinton said that, while nothing could be done to ensure such an incident would never happen again, "there is a lot more we can do to ensure it will happen more rarely".

"Yet again, we have seen a sanctuary violated by gun violence, taking children brimming with faith and promise and hope before their time," he said.

"Our nation's support and prayers are with the families of the victims, those still suffering in the hospital and the entire Fort Worth community."

Tragedy unfolds

The Wedgwood Baptist Church was holding an evening service for teenagers when Ashbrook burst in, shouting anti-Baptist and anti-Christian obscenities and firing indiscriminately.


[ image: Distraught survivors outside the Wedgwood Baptist Church]
Distraught survivors outside the Wedgwood Baptist Church
Four teenagers were among the seven dead. Another seven people were injured.

Witnesses said that, when the gunfire was over, a "very calm" Ashbrook sat in the back pew, put a gun to his head and shot himself.

City spokesman Pat Svacina said the suspect rolled a pipe bomb down an aisle shortly after the shooting began. The bomb exploded but caused no injuries.


Nick Bryant: "Local police say Ashbrook acted alone"
Fear of further explosions forced the police to leave the bodies temporarily inside the church. Spectators at the scene were moved back several blocks.

A bomb squad inspected several suspicious packages found at the church, Lt David Ellis of the Fort Worth Police Department said.

'Terrible tragedy'

Texas Governor George W Bush said in a statement: "This is a terrible tragedy made worse by the fact that it took place in a house of hope and love.


[ image: Clinton:
Clinton: "A sanctuary violated by gun violence"
"My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the congregation."

Attorney-general Janet Reno said there are still many more questions and answers surrounding what happened at Wedgwood Baptist Church and "the search for the truth would continue as yet another community mourned".

The incident is the latest in a series of mass shootings in the US this year, including 13 killed in Atlanta in July, and 15 killed in Littleton, Colorado when two high school students went on a shooting spree in April.



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