Tune in to Fox51 News Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. for the full report.

DAINGERFIELD, Texas (KETK) – The peace of a place of worship was shattered and the lives of its members forever altered when a former math teacher opened fire inside First Baptist Church in Daingerfield 40 years ago.

Tap here to explore Chapter 1 and the in-depth docuseries, story, timeline and podcast as part of the investigation “A History of Mass Violence”

On June 22, 1980, Alvin King III opened fire on a crowd of nearly 300 people, killing five and injuring 10 others.

King was set to go on trial the following day for incest charges. He had hoped members of the church would serve as character witnesses, but they turned him down, according to The New York Times.

As members sang morning hymns, other East Texans listened to the services over local AM radio.

Then King walked through the doors, screamed “this is war,” and began shooting.

“I heard a pop pop pop like firecrackers and I looked around and it was a man with a gun,” said Judy Pollan, survivor. “Dressed like a soldier, really, and he was shooting.”

As people scrambled around the sanctuary, many realized there was no place to go.

“We were just trapped, helpless,” said Gary Pollan, survivor.

As shots continued, people dropped to the floor.

“A bullet got her right in the temple and it came out right between her eyes,” said the mother of shooting victim Gina Linham. “I got up and ran over there to her and shook her and gently pulled her to me. I was patting her and telling her it was going to be okay, but when I looked under the bench I saw her brains.”

Seeing that help was nowhere to be found, Chris Hall jumped on the shooter’s back and tackled him toward the foyer away from the crowd.

“They broke through the set of doors, wrestling, shots began to ring out,” said Gary. “Red McDaniel grabbed him in a bear hug, he shot Red five or six times but (Red) didn’t turn loose of him.”

They wrestled out the church doors onto the front steps.

“When they hit the ground outside, the pistol bounced a few feet away,” said Gary. “Kenneth dove on him, but before he got there he [King] was able to get there and grab the gun and shoot Kenneth.”

After getting away, King ran around the church toward a nearby fire station where he shot himself in the head. King survived after being treated at a nearby hospital.

“Without the heroism of those men, we were all sitting ducks,” said Judy.

Before his murder trial began, King committed suicide by hanging himself in the Morris County Jail.

Just outside the front door of the church stands a monument recalling a 40-year-old tragedy and honoring the victims who died, including Kenneth Truitt and Red McDaniel who gave their lives to save others.

Five people who died:

  • Gene Gandy
  • Gina Linam
  • Thelma Richardson
  • James (Red) Y. McDaniel
  • Kenneth A. Truitt