Who was Walter Rainey, the 84-year-old Alabama church shooting victim?
The suspect was sitting alone when Walter Rainey approached him and invited him to sit at a table
Smith refused to join them and moments later, he pulled out a gun and opened fire
Raine was rushed to a local hospital where he succumbed to injuries
Walter Rainey was one of the three people killed by a gunman in an Alabama church on Thursday evening.
Officials with the Vestavia Hills Police Department and The Vestavia Hills Fire Department arrived at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church around 6.55 pm on Thursday after receiving reports of an active shooter situation. The responding officers took the suspect, identified as 70-year-old Robert Findlay Smith, into custody.
Rev. Doug Carpenter told AL.com that the suspect was sitting alone when Walter Rainey, a church member, approached him and invited him to sit at a table. Smith refused to join them and moments later, he pulled out a gun and opened fire.
Rainey, a white male age 84 from Irondale, was rushed to a local hospital where he succumbed to injuries.
One of his children, Melinda Rainey Thompson, released a statement on behalf of the Rainey family, thanking all those who reached out and offered prayers or “a thousand different kindnesses to ease the loss we all feel acutely today while still finding it so hard to believe.”
"Bartlett was a husband of 61 years to Linda Foster Rainey, and we are all grateful that she was spared and that he died in her arms while she murmured words of comfort and love into his ears. We also feel a sense of peace that his last hours were spent in one of his favorite places on earth, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, a place that welcomes everyone with love," the statement said.
"We are proud that in his last act on earth, he extended the hand of community and fellowship to a stranger, regardless of the outcome. Bart Rainey was strong in faith and secure in the love of his family and friends. He made everyone he encountered feel special. We hope you will honor him by extending your hand to those around you who are in need. We – his wife, children, and grandchildren – will miss him."
Rainey’s neighbor Brian Cocke told AL.com that the victim and his wife had moved in next door four years back. They had four children and attended church regularly. The couple also often flew an Episcopal church flag outside their townhome.
He described Rainey as “the nicest gentleman anyone could have met" and called the shooting a “tragic mess.”
Cocke added that when he was told that Rainey had invited the suspected shooter to sit together at the potluck, he wasn’t surprised.
“In fact when I read that I thought, “that’s Bart.’ He would never want anyone to feel left out, so yeah that would not surprise me at all," he told the outlet.