PROVO — A gun accidentally went off inside a church on Sunday, sending a bullet into a classroom with teenagers, according to police, who noted that fortunately, no one was injured.
The incident happened about 2 p.m. at a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 345 E. Foothill Drive, Provo. A 74-year-old man was between the double-glass doors at the church's entrance when a .22-caliber revolver that he was carrying unholstered in his backpack went off, Provo Police Sgt. Nisha King said.
Police say for an unknown reason, the hammer of the gun caught on something in the backpack, causing the gun to fire one round. The shot traveled horizontally at ground level through the wall and into an adjacent classroom where a group of teens were having class, King said.
It was not immediately known if the backpack was being held low to the ground or if the man dropped it, she said.
The man did have a permit for the weapon. No arrests were made, and the Provo city attorney was reviewing the case, King said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called the Mormon church, has a policy that prohibits guns in meetinghouses.
"We remind members and visitors to our chapels of the church’s policy on firearms: 'Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. The carrying of lethal weapons, concealed or otherwise, within their walls is inappropriate except as required by officers of the law,'" said church spokesman Eric Hawkins.
He said local church leaders are "reinforcing this principle" with members.
"We are confident that the building and its members are safe," Hawkins said.
We remind members and visitors to our chapels of the church's policy on firearms: 'Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. The carrying of lethal weapons, concealed or otherwise, within their walls is inappropriate except as required by officers of the law.'
–Eric Hawkins, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
He added that the gun owner had been target shooting the day before and forgot about the gun in his backpack when he went to church the next day.
The MormonLeaks website posted an audio recording Sunday that it says is of an “unidentified local leader” speaking about the shooting to the young women of a ward in the church’s Provo Edgemont North Stake.
“There have been some other threats against other individuals in a different ward, and so there is a particular level of precaution that the other ward … has taken. As part of that, it was a mistake because a safety came off a gun and it did discharge,” the man says in the recording.
“We’d appreciate you not spreading that around because then that could incite the issue that they’re trying to protect against by chatter or social media or otherwise,” he said.
“We’d rather you not post, ‘Hey a gun went off today at church.’ That will hit headline news and could even go national and then we’ve really created a situation that would be hard to control.”
Hawkins had no comment about the audio or the alleged threat at the other ward.