Mayhem erupted at a Tennessee church Thursday after an elderly man celebrating at an early Thanksgiving event with other seniors accidentally shot his wheelchair bound wife during a gun safety discussion.
The couple’s family have asked that they remain unidentified for now but a report in The Washington Post said the man and his wife are members of the First United Method Church in Tellico Plains where the shooting happened.
Police say misinformation about what initially happened at the church sparked a brief lock-down at the local hospital and several local schools before police realized what really happened at the church.
Tellico Plains Police Chief Russ Parks explained that about 20 seniors were at the church having an early Thanksgiving meal. In light of the recent mass shootings that have taken place, including the massacre at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas, the group decided to discuss gun safety.
The 81-year-old shooter quickly volunteered to demonstrate, declaring: “Well, I’ve got my gun on me.”
Parks said the man pulled out his holster to reveal a .38-caliber Ruger handgun. He then removed the magazine, cleared the chamber and began showing the gun to the other parishioners.
The group later discussed how to bring guns to church safely while lamenting the many people who have been killed in mass shootings across the country.
After the discussion and demonstration, the 81-year-old man replaced the magazine in his gun and put it back safely in his holster.
The group was cleaning up after the meal when a member who had missed the gun safety demonstration asked to see the gun.
As he was about to show the gun to the member, however, the 81-year-old church member accidentally pulled the trigger of the still loaded gun hitting his 80-year-old wife who was sitting next to him in a wheelchair.
The bullet, according to The Washington Post, tore through the woman’s lower left abdomen, exited the right side of her abdomen, then ripped through her right forearm before exiting through the backside of her forearm.
Parks said the bullet then hit a wall and ricocheted to land under the wheelchair of the shooter’s wife.
Most of the members who were there did not realize the church member was showing the gun again, so many assumed they were dealing with an active shooter at the church.
“They had their backs to it,” Parks told The Washington Post. “Somebody hollers, ‘He’s been shot! She’s been shot! Call 911!’ So someone grabs their cellphone and calls 911, and says we’ve had somebody shot at church.”
On Nov. 5, Air Force veteran Devin Kelley, 26, entered First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas and executed 26 members and seriously injured 20 others in a 7-minute long attack.
Authorities say Kelley began firing his Ruger AR-556 rifle at the church building shortly after the 11 a.m. service began. He emptied more than 15 magazines, holding 30 rounds each.