The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

June 18, 2013

Chaos as gunfire erupts at Utah Father’s Day Mass

OGDEN, Utah — It was a quiet part of the Father’s Day Mass as about 300 people stood up in preparation for communion. A parishioner, known by many at the church as Ricky Jennings, entered through the glass doors in back, holding his wife Cheryl’s hand.

Seconds later, police say Jennings fired a single shot at the back of Cheryl’s father’s head, nearly killing him. The loud bang pierced the silence, sending people diving for cover beneath pews and the priest behind the altar.

“It was echoing in my head so loud,” said Rebecca Ory Hernandez, who was only a few feet away from the Evans with her 5-year-old son. She grabbed her son, threw him under the pew and got on top of him. She heard the pastor blurt out an expletive into his microphone. “I was waiting for another gunman,” she said.

The shooter ran from the church, the pastor and a half dozen other men close on his heels. Ory Hernandez and other parishioners went to James Evans. They used scarves and a shirt to help soak up the blood, and she cradled his head. His wife, Tara, who had been standing next to him, and others prayed.

Meanwhile, Charles Richard Jennings Jr., 35, stole a truck from a nearby neighbor at gunpoint and led police on a highway chase, police said. He was caught hours later on foot after the truck ran out of gas.

As police try to determine why Jennings shot his father-in-law — police think he may have been drinking or on drugs and say the couple had a history of domestic disputes — the family is grateful for a small miracle.

Evans, who turns 66 on Tuesday, was struck at the side of his head, the bullet going through near his ear and out his cheek and missing his brain, said Dr. Barbara Kerwin, the director of the intensive care unit at McDay-Dee Hospital in Ogden.

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