Update: Charles E. “Bert” Miller dies after shooting at Fallon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
One Fallon man was fatally shot and another injured early Sunday afternoon at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on East Richards Street.
Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman identified the victim as 61-year-old Charles E. “Bert” Miller and the alleged shooter as John K. O’Connor, 48, who lives at 901 Mackay Court, and also attends the same church. Gehman said the weapon is a “midsized-caliber handgun.”
O’Connor is being held in the Churchill County Detention Facility awaiting charges to be filed. Gehman said officers are still working the scene, and detectives are working in conjunction with the Churchill County District Attorney’s Office to obtain the necessary search warrants and to find the weapon.
Gehman said the name of the other man who was wounded and released from Banner Churchill Community Hospital will not be released at this time in respect to his privacy.
“This is an ongoing police investigation, so there are some things that cannot be released,” Gehman said.
Another press conference will be conducted Monday morning. Gehman, though, first released information at a late afternoon press conference.
According to Gehman, a 911 call came in at 12:58 p.m. reporting a shooting. He said approximately 20 officers from the police department and Churchill County Sheriff’s Office responded. He said O’Connor, who apparently was attending the sacrament meeting in the chapel prior to the shooting, left the building on foot and returned to his home. Gehman said officers and deputies surrounded O’Connor’s home, which is a block from the church, and after a hostage negotiator placed several phone calls to O’Connor, the suspect agreed to leave the house.
Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford said the gunman entered from the back of the church and shot the two in front of congregation members.
“Our hearts go out to the family members of those who lost someone and for those who were in the church when this tragedy occurred,” he said.
Tedford said the city has reached out to the church to help. The mayor praised Miller for his community service having served for 28 years in the Fallon Churchill Volunteer Fire Department. He said Miller is survived by his wife, three adult children and several grandchildren.
Gehman said it’s too early to understand the motive, but he added it does not appear to be an attack on the church but on one individual. During the afternoon, Gehman said officers interviewed at least 50 witnesses.
When he first arrived at the scene, Gehman said he was surprised by the strength of the church members.
“Just a feeling in the room, but they were all shook up but it was clear they were there for each other,” Gehman said.
Gehman, who has been police chief for more than 10 years, said this is the first incident of this type in Fallon. He also said law enforcement officials were not aware of any problems between the church and O’Connor.
O’Connor is a longtime resident of Fallon and attended Churchill County schools. He was also a candidate for the Assembly 38 seat in 2010 but lost to Pete Goicoechea in the general election.
Tedford thanked officials throughout the state who contacted him and expressed their condolences and to offer words of encouragement.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., sent a tweet of condolence, acknowledging he’s in contact with officials investigating the shooting.
“Deeply saddened by the act of senseless violence in Fallon today at the LDS church. My family and I are praying for all loved ones, churchgoers, and community members impacted by this tragedy.”
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., also expressed condolences to those affected by the shooting.
“Places of worship should be a safe haven,” she tweeted. “The gun violence across this country must end.”
LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins released this statement Sunday afternoon:
“We have recently learned of a shooting in Fallon, Nevada, during a church service. Details are still developing, and inquiries should be directed to local law enforcement personnel. We express our love to those in this congregation and our prayers for the victims and their families. Local leaders are ministering to them at this time.”