Man accused in church shooting felt ‘disrespected’

Wooden gavel placed on a block, isolated on a background

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A man accused of shooting and nearly killing his father-in-law during a crowded Father’s Day church service in northern Utah told authorities he pulled the trigger because he felt “disrespected,” prosecutors said Monday.

Weber County deputy attorney Dean Saunders told a judge about the alleged motive of Charles “Ricky” Jennings Jr. at a court hearing in Ogden, about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City. He also argued Jennings, 35, should be kept in jail because he might try to “complete the act” of killing James Evans.

Judge Michael Lyons revoked Jennings’ bail, which had been set at $105,000, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/17yMOom).

Police say Jennings shot Evans once in the back of the head June 16 during a Catholic Mass in Ogden. The shooting occurred during a quiet part of the service as about 300 people stood in preparation for communion.

Jennings had walked into the church seconds earlier holding hands with his wife, Cheryl Jennings, who is Evans’ daughter.

The bullet remarkably missed Evans’ brain, entering near his ear and exiting out his cheek. Evans, 66, is expected to survive but faces a long recovery from the damage done to his jaw.

Jennings is charged with attempted murder. No further details about motive were released.

Jennings’ attorney, Michael Bouwhuis, fought the move to revoke bail, saying the amount was too much for Jennings to pay anyway.

Bouwhuis also asked the court to order a review of Jennings’ competency. He said that after the shooting, Jennings made comments to detectives about being hypnotized that raised concerns. He also said Jennings has brain damage from an accident 10 years ago that might influence his decision-making.

A competency hearing has been set for Sept. 9.

Detectives have said they thought Jennings might have been drinking or on drugs, and they know he and his wife had a history of domestic disputes that might have triggered the shooting.

Court records show Jennings has a criminal record going back to 1996. Over the years, he has pleaded no contest to felony charges of receiving a stolen vehicle and criminal trespassing. He also has pleaded guilty to theft charges and a felony charge of attempting to tamper with a witness or juror.

Jennings’ wife stayed inside the church after he fled. There was no indication she knew what her husband was going to do, and authorities don’t expect to file any charges against her.

Jennings was apprehended walking near a highway hours after the shooting. Authorities say he had stolen a truck but it ran out of gas.

After his arrest, Jennings acknowledged he was the man who shot James, court documents show. He told detectives he thought he missed. Jennings said he didn’t see what happened because he quickly ran out of the church after several members of the congregation came after him.

Authorities said Jennings wouldn’t tell them where he got the gun.

Several days after the shooting, the Rev. Erik Richtsteig — who was leading the Father’s Day Mass when the shooting occurred — led churchgoers in a special Catholic ceremony, called the Liturgy of Reparation, to cleanse the place of worship.

“The evil done in this church can stop today, if we can forgive,” Richtsteig said that June evening.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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