Gun-related tragedy struck once again this week, this time at a Catholic Supply store in Ballwin, Missouri, a suburb of St. Lous. USA Today reports that a former pastor has been arrested after allegedly attempting to coerce three women into having sex with him at gunpoint. When one of them resisted, he shot 53-year-old Jamie Schmidt in the head and forced the other two to submit to his “deviant” demands.
The shooter, 53-year-old Thomas Bruce, has a reputation for right-wing tirades on social media and has ranted against gun-free zones in the past. He was a huge fan of President Trump, attended his rallies, and regularly tweeted about Republican politics. His last tweet read “I’ve already forgotten you. #promisesmade #promiseskept #trump2020 #BuildTheWall” and his feed was full of retweets from white nationalist FOX anchor Laura Ingraham.
Allegedly, he entered the store in question, saw the women, decided they were vulnerable, retrieved his gun, and herded three women into one of the back rooms. Once he had them cornered, police say he exposed his genitals and directed the women to “perform deviant sexual acts on him.”
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When one woman refused, Bruce allegedly shot her in the head, killing her. Frightened by the murder, the other two women gave in to his sexual assault demands. Bruce fled the store sometime after. Authorities captured him on Wednesday, charging him with murder, sodomy, and kidnapping and other offenses. He could face the death penalty.
“It seems to me a guy like this saw an opportunity – three women in the store alone,” said St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch. He added that authorities do not believe Bruce targeted the employees of the Catholic supply store for religious reasons.
Police Chief Jon Belmar, who has served in law enforcement for more than thirty years said in a statement online that the crime was “one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever had occasion to investigate.”
Thomas Bruce formerly served in the Navy and founded an Evangelical Christian church in 2003 and oversaw a small congregation until 2007. He was associated with numerous ministries and churches in the past.
Sadly, this horrific incident is just another example of the deep-rooted hypocrisy and moral rot that infests much of the gun-loving religious right. It’s unclear what exactly could have prevented this specific tragedy, but it’s yet another reminder that America is failing to address its gun violence epidemic.