Police search for motive in shooting at Nevada Mormon church

FALLON, Nev. (AP) — Police in the northern Nevada city of Fallon were trying to determine Monday why a 48-year-old man walked into his Mormon church on Sunday and opened fire, killing one man and injuring another.

It does not appear that 48-year-old gunman John Kelley O’Connor was targeting the church but instead was focused on an individual victim, Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman said.

It wasn’t clear if the target was Charles E. “Bert” Miller, 61, who was killed, or another unidentified man who was shot in the leg. Authorities have not released the second man’s name, but they say he has been discharged from the hospital.

O’Connor was charged with murder and battery with substantial harm and was being held at the Churchill County Jail on a $1,050,000 bond, the police chief said Monday morning.

It’s wasn’t immediately clear Monday if he had an attorney. No one could be reached to comment on his behalf at O’Connor’s listed phone number.

O’Connor is scheduled to make his first court appearance later this week, Gehman said.

After the shooting, O’Connor walked to his home around the corner from the church. Police and sheriff’s deputies surrounded his home. A hostage negotiator spoke to O’Connor over the phone, and the man agreed to exit and surrender with his hands up, police said.

Gehman said police seized a handgun that appeared to match one used at the church and several other items from O’Connor’s home but did not yet know the man’s motive.

We are trying to piece together the information we have to determine the reasons,” Gehman told The Associated Press.

Miller was a 35-year veteran of the local volunteer fire department, according to police.

“I don’t know why you’d ever want to shoot Bert Miller. He’s the nicest guy in the world,” church member Rich Hutchings told the Deseret News. “It’s absolutely shocking.”

Another church member, Steve White, told the newspaper that when the shooting started, “pandemonium broke out. People were screaming and hitting the ground.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not allow guns in church meetings.

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,” church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement.

The police chief said officers had contact with O’Connor in the past, including two domestic violence charges in 1992 and 1995. Both charges were dismissed.

There were about 50 people in the church at the time of the shooting.

Fallon, which is about 60 miles (96 kilometers) east of Reno, has a population of about 8,700 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Price reported from Las Vegas.

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