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North Carolina church members comfort families after shooting


CARTHAGE, N.C. (BP) — A Southern Baptist congregation opened its doors to grieving community members March 29 after a gunman killed seven elderly residents and one staff member of a nursing home in Carthage, N.C.

First Baptist Church of Carthage responded quickly to the crisis at Pinelake Health and Rehab, which is located just a few minutes’ drive from the church building in the community of about 2,000 located 60 miles southwest of Raleigh. Families of the victims spent much of the day at the church, according to the Associated Press.

The gunman, identified as Robert Stewart, 45, attacked the facility about 10 a.m. that Sunday morning. He killed seven residents and a nurse, Jerry Avant Jr., 39, before a police officer ended the rampage by shooting and wounding him, according to news reports. Avant’s sister, Frances Green, said police officials believe her brother was shot while trying to stop the gunman.

Three other people were wounded in the attack.

While the motive for the attack was at first unclear, police investigators were looking into the fact that his estranged wife worked there, Carthage police chief Chris McKenzie said Monday. Stewart’s ex-wife, Sue Griffin, told reporters he recently had been reaching out to family members, telling them he had cancer and that he was preparing to “go away.” Griffin’s 15-year marriage to Stewart ended in 2001.