‘Battling a Demon’: Drifter Sought Help Before Texas Church Shooting


Mr. Kinnunen’s sister, Amy Dawn Kinnunen, said she and her two brothers grew up in a religiously conservative family; her parents expected her to wear dresses to school. But her brother was not very religious, she said, until their younger brother died of an overdose of oxycodone at the age of 30 in 2009. At that point, she said, her brother worked hard to kick drugs and alcohol, and “become totally involved with the Lord.”

“He was a religious fanatic,” Ms. Kinnunen said. “He went off on me just because I smoked cigarettes.” She said she last communicated with him on Nov. 25, to wish him a happy birthday. He responded, “Forty-three, and nine years clean.”

Bill McGaughey, a childhood friend, said that he had also seen Mr. Kinnunen turn to religion after his brother’s death. “He got very into church and very into the Bible,” Mr. McGaughey said. “He knew the Bible better than anybody I know.”

Mr. McGaughey said that Mr. Kinnunen had tried and failed to turn his life around. “He just got broken and nobody could fix him,” Mr. McGaughey said. “I think he just wanted to be done with life.”

Ms. Kinnunen said she had been praying for the victims of Sunday’s tragedy, along with their families. But she also pleaded for compassion for her brother and his family. “Everybody’s making him a monster, and that’s not the case,” she said. “Honestly, I can’t even wrap my head around it.”

At a vigil on Monday to commemorate the two victims, Mr. Farmer urged members of the community to remember all that remained after so great a loss.

“We’ve lost great men,” he said, but added: “I love this community. I love this church. I love this state. And I love our country, and I love our freedoms. And I’m not going to let evil take that away.”

Dave Montgomery reported from White Settlement and Granbury, Texas; Anemona Hartocollis from New York; and Rick Rojas from Atlanta. Mitch Smith contributed reporting from Chicago. Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.



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