• A 70-year-old man opened fire during a church group meeting in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, killing three elderly people
  • The suspect's motive is unclear
  • There were around 25 people present at the time of the shooting

Vestavia Hills, Alabama -- A 70-year-old man has been arrested and faces capital murder charges after allegedly opening fire during a church group meeting in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, Thursday and killing three people.

The suspect was identified by the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office as Robert Findlay Smith, who occasionally attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, where the shooting took place, ABC News reported.

Smith was attending a church event called “boomers potluck dinner” when he took out a handgun and opened fire, Vestavia Hills Police said at a news conference Friday.

An unnamed church member subdued the suspect until authorities arrived at the scene.

Three people were killed in the shooting. An 84-year-old man died at the scene, while a 75-year-old woman and an 84-year-old woman later died in the hospital.

Of the three victims, two have been identified: 84-year-old Walter Rainey and 75-year-old Sarah Yeager.

Smith was booked on capital murder charges and is being held in the Jefferson County Jail on no bond.

Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive as of this writing. Police said they believe the suspect acted alone.

According to the reverend’s wife, Ann Carpenter, Smith attends church most Sundays. The 70-year-old man "sat in the back" and "didn’t have much interaction with anybody," she told ABC News.

She added that there were around 25 people present at the time of the shooting.

When asked if he ever thought a shooting could happen at his church, Rev. Douglas Carpenter noted that shootings have been occurring at "peaceful places" such as schools and grocery stores.

"At Saint Stephen's? Why not? It happens at peaceful places. That school that got shot up was a peaceful place. That grocery store was a peaceful place," the reverend said.

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church released a statement Friday which spoke of how they are relying on their faith.

“This scripture speaks a fundamental truth that has broken our hearts open, more so in the last 24 hours than anyone could have imagined possible. Darkness is in this world. And yet, as a people of faith, we hold on to the truth that darkness does not have the final word—the light and love of God do,” the statement read.

“Over the past 24 hours, thousands of emails, phone calls, and text messages have been coming to Saint Stephen’s from all over the world, a reminder that we are deeply connected, supporting and walking with each other in faith,” it continued.

handgun-231699_1920 (1)
Representation.Travis Lamar Birkley, 34, was arrested over the deaths of six people, whose bodies were found with gunshot wounds at a Milwaukee home on Jan. 23. Brett_Hondow/Pixabay