An assailant opened fire at a church in Alabama on Thursday evening, killing two people and wounding one other, the authorities said.
A suspect was in custody after the shooting, at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, a city of around 34,000 people about six miles south of Birmingham, said Capt. Shane Ware of the Vestavia Hills Police Department.
The injured victim was being treated at a hospital, and the condition was not immediately known, Captain Ware said.
“A lone suspect entered a small group church meeting and began shooting,” Captain Ware said.
At the time of the shooting, a “Boomers Potluck Dinner” was being held in the church, according to a calendar on the church’s website. It was supposed to be a relaxing evening without an agenda, according to organizers. “There will be no program, simply eat and have time for fellowship,” an advertisement for the event said.
Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama called the shooting “a tragic loss of life.”
“This should never happen — in a church, in a store, in the city or anywhere,” she said.
The Rev. John Burruss, who serves as the church’s rector, said in a video posted online that he was in Greece on Thursday on a pilgrimage but was working to quickly get home.
“I’m deeply moved by the radical support of love from many people reaching out from all over the country,” he said.
He added that in the coming days, the church would share ways to “pray and to gather.”
“That is what we do as people of faith,” he said. “We come together in midst of life and death.”
The shooting comes amid a nationwide explosion in gun violence, including two gun massacres in May: one at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead; and a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket in which a white gunman killed 10 Black people.
The back-to-back mass shootings pushed the issue of gun violence to the forefront in Washington, where Congress is trying to advance a bipartisan deal on a narrow set of gun safety measures, including enhanced background checks to give the authorities time to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21.
Also in May, a 68-year-old Las Vegas man opened fire inside a church with a Taiwanese congregation in Southern California, killing one person and wounding five others in what the Orange County sheriff described as a “politically motivated hate incident.”
The Rev. Kelley Hudlow of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama said by phone on Thursday that she had driven to the church right when she heard about the shooting. When she arrived, Ms. Hudlow said she saw churchgoers and other members of the community praying together while some witnesses spoke to the authorities.
“Everybody is in a fair amount of shock,” she said. “It’s not what you think is going to happen here.”