Criminal charges have been filed in a fatal shooting that took place inside a Southern Baptist church in Pennsylvania during a Sunday morning worship service April 24.
Mark Storms, 46, of Landsdale, Pa., was arraigned April 28 on charges of voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the death of Robert E. Braxton III, 27, at the Keystone Fellowship Church campus in Montgomeryville, Pa.
Based on interviews with more than 50 witnesses, police say Braxton became “verbally disruptive and agitated” during the 11 a.m. service when a church member seated behind him touched him on the shoulder to tell him he was sitting in a reserved seat. A church usher and an associate pastor intervened and ultimately allowed Braxton to remain in the seat.
Hearing the commotion Storms, who has no official function with the church, approached Braxton, displayed a concealed weapons permit badge and told him to leave the sanctuary. Braxton then struck Storms in the face, and Storms fired two fatal shots from his Ruger 9mm semi-automatic handgun.
District Judge Andrea Hudak Duffy set bail at $250,000 cash, adding conditions that Storms is not to possess any firearms or go anywhere near Braxton’s family members. Asked by the judge if he owned any other weapons, Storms responded quietly, “The only one I had is the one I used in self-defense.”
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele told local media the shooting “was not a reasonable self-defense situation.”
“This is a situation where a gun is introduced into a fistfight,” Steele said at a press conference. “The victim has no weapon upon him.”
Court papers quoted by The Reporter News in Lansdale, Pa., said that Braxton “arrived at the service only armed with his Bible” while Storms attended the service “armed with his loaded Ruger LC9 9 mm semi-automatic handgun.”
According to CBS 3 in Philadelphia, Braxton attended North Penn High School in Landsale, where he played basketball, and went on to study communications at Temple University. Relatives said he was very dedicated to his church and close to family.
Braxton’s funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Keystone Fellowship Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations to Keystone Fellowship’s new youth facility known as the Warehouse.
Packing in the pews