Fallon church shooting: A community mourns

Published: Jul. 23, 2018 at 7:13 PM PDT
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A day after a

, murder charges are filed and the small community deals with the loss of one of its own.

The day began with another press conference. Much of what we heard Monday morning confirmed what was already known.

July 22, 2018, 61-year-old Charles E. "Bert' Miller was shot several times at afternoon services at the LDS church on Richards Avenue.

The shooting was witnessed by a number of people and a short time later the man they identified was tracked to his nearby home.

"We placed phone calls into the residence," said Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman, "and after what would be described as a short amount of time as negotiations go, he came out with his hands up."

Forty-eight-year-old John O'Connor--said to be a member of the church--is now charged with Miller's murder and the wounding of another man.

Gehman says a 9-millimeter handgun was recovered in the home along with other evidence that may shed light on a motive.

O'Connor is being held on bail of $1,0050,000. His initial court appearance will be later this week.

As the legal process moves forward, we tend to concentrate on the accused and the crime itself. The victim tends to get lost. In this case, in this community, that's unlikely to happen.

"I think it's just a shock right now. Everybody's trying to get their head around this thing." says retired Fallon Fire Chief Bill Lawry.

That's not just because it was a fatal shooting or that it took place in a church. Fallon is still the kind of town where most people know most people.

That was certainly true of Bert Miller. A longtime resident, member of a well-known family, volunteer fireman for 35 years--he was-- by all descriptions--the least likely victim of a violent crime,

"First and foremost I'd say he was a family man," says Lawry. "Dedicated to the community, honest, hard working, dependable."

"He was one of those guys who when you got the tree on fire call at two in the morning, he'll be here. Every time.

"He was just an all around good guy. He's taken a stand on stuff, but he never teed people off. I'd say he's more of a peacemaker than anything. I just don't know."

Associated Press:

Church shooting victim's neighbors in shock

8 p.m. Monday:

Neighbors of a longtime volunteer firefighter say his whole neighborhood is in shock after he was killed during Sunday services at his Mormon church in northern Nevada.

Craig Heath told The Associated Press on Monday that he's known 61-year-old Charles "Bert" Miller for 25 years and Miller never had a bad word to say to anybody.

He says Miller is the former owner of an auto parts store who was an active volunteer in the Boy Scouts.

Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman said Monday morning that 48-year-old John K. O'Connor has been arrested and charged with murder.

Authorities say they don't know a motive.

It's wasn't immediately clear Monday if he had an attorney. No one could be reached to comment on his behalf at O'Connor's listed phone number.


12:55 p.m.

A woman who was in a Nevada Mormon church when a gunman opened fire says the shooting happened quickly and she heard four to six shots fired before it was over.

Jacquie Hettinger said Monday that she was sitting in the middle of the church in the northern city of Fallon Sunday afternoon when the shooting occurred.

Hettinger says she didn't see much but said there were many children who witnessed the shooting.

She says after the shooting someone gathered them to sing songs.

Hettinger has lived across the street from the accused gunman John K. O'Connor for more than a decade.

She says he was a very kind man who would help her care for her sick husband. She says she's devastated and she can't understand what happened.


10:25 a.m.

A man accused of killing one man and injuring another when he opened fire at a northern Nevada Mormon church has been charged with murder.

Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman said Monday morning that 48-year-old John K. O'Connor was also charged with battery with substantial harm.

O'Connor was being held in jail on a $1,050,000 bond. He's not due in court until later this week.

It's wasn't immediately clear Monday if he had an attorney. No one could be reached to comment on his behalf at O'Connor's listed phone number.

Gehman said police seized a handgun and several other items from O'Connor's home but did not yet know the man's motive.

He says police were still interviewing witnesses to the Sunday afternoon shooting.


9:45 a.m.

Police have named the man killed in a shooting at a Mormon church in northern Nevada as 61-year-old Charles E. Miller.

Authorities identified Miller late Sunday. Officials have not released the name of a man who was injured but treated and released from the hospital.

Police are still trying to determine why 48-year-old John K. O'Connor walked into the church Sunday afternoon and opened fire. They say he appeared to be targeting an individual, not the church.

Authorities say there were about 50 people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel Sunday afternoon when O'Connor started shooting.

Police planned to provide updates at a news conference Monday morning.


1:40 a.m.

Authorities say one person is dead and another injured following a shooting at a Mormon church in Nevada.

Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman says 48-year-old John Kelley O'Connor walked into the church on Sunday, opened fire and then walked home.

TV station KOLO reports O'Connor surrendered after authorities called his home.

Gehman says O'Connor appears to have targeted one person and not the church, which had as many as 50 people at the time. The motive was not immediately known.

Authorities did not disclose the victims' names pending next-of-kin notification.

Fallon is about 60 miles (96 kilometers) east of Reno.

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