A 46-year-old man has been charged with voluntary manslaughter after police say he fatally shot a fellow worshiper during an argument over a seat at a Pennsylvania church.
Mark Storms, of Lansdale, was charged in the April 24 death of Robert Braxton III, 27, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele announced on April 28.
Braxton was shot by Storms during an 11 a.m. service at Keystone Fellowship Church in Montgomeryville, the district attorney says.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Braxton Was ‘Verbally Disruptive & Agitated’ Before He Was Shot, the DA Says
The victim, Robert Braxton, was “verbally disruptive and agitated” when he arrived at the 11 a.m. church service, the district attorney’s office said. Police interviewed 50 witnesses, according to the press release.
Mark Storms approached Braxton and told him he had to leave the sanctuary, the district attorney’s office said.
“Braxton then struck Storms in the face at which time Storms fired two shots from his Ruger 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which struck and killed Braxton,” according to the district attorney.
At a press conference, District Attorney Kevin Steele said Braxton began creating a disturbance after a fellow church member sitting behind him touched his shoulder and said he’d taken an occupied church.
“Witnesses then saw the victim calming down and saw the shooter come over. When he came over he had a gun out,” Steele told reporters. “It is clear the shooter brought a gun to a crowded church, he introduced that gun into a verbal altercation that turned into a fistfight, and then fired the gun twice aiming at the vital part of the body, killing the victim.”
Steele said the shooting was not reasonable self-defense.
2. The Prosecutor Says Storms, Who Showed a ‘Concealed Weapons Permit Badge,’ Had No Official Capacity at the Church
Mark Storms did not have an official capacity at the church, District Attorney Kevin Steele said in a press release.
He showed a gold “concealed carry permit badge” to Braxton before the shooting, Steele said.
Storms appears to have purchased the “concealed carry permit badge” online, NBC Philadelphia reports.
3. Storms’ Bail Was Set at $250,000 & He Was Barred From Contacting the Victim’s Family
Mark Storms appeared in court for the first time Thursday after he was charged. In addition to the voluntary manslaughter charge, he is also accused of reckless endangerment, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office said.
Storms bail was set at $250,000 cash. He is not allowed to possess firearms or contact the victim’s family, according to the Lansdale Reporter.
4. Braxton Was a High School Basketball Player in Lansdale & Graduated From Temple University
Robert Braxton III, 27, played high school basketball at North Penn High School in Lansdale, CBS Philadelphia reported.
He then studied communications at Temple University.
5. The Church Says It Is ‘Deeply Grieved Over the Tragic Event’
The Keystone Fellowship Church issued a statement after the shooting, saying “Our hearts are deeply grieved over the tragic event that occurred Sunday morning, April 24 at our Montgomeryville campus. As a church family, we are shocked and heartbroken over what took place, and our congregation is in prayer for everyone involved.”
Members of the church gathered on April 27.
“We deeply love our Keystone family. Hundreds of you came out Monday night to pray, worship and seek comfort together. We needed this time to pour out our grieving hearts to our God, to each other, to our beloved Braxton family and the other families involved,” Teresa Cope, a church representative, wrote on Facebook. “We are also so thankful for the Keystone staff from all campuses who have come together, tirelessly working to help our congregation through this tragedy – even while grieving themselves. We appreciate additional prayers for strength and healing as we walk through this unimaginable situation.”