crimesider

Charles Richard Jennings, alleged Utah church gunman, charged with attempted murder, police say

Charles Richard Jennings CBS affiliate KUTV

Charles Richard Jennings
CBS affiliate KUTV
(CBS/AP) OGDEN, Utah - Charles Richard Jennings, a Utah parishioner who walked into church and fired a gun on Father's day, has been charged with attempted murder.

It was a quiet part of the Father's Day Mass as about 300 people stood up in preparation for communion. 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.

The shooter ran from the church, the pastor and a half dozen other men close on his heels. 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.

"I'm OK, I'm OK," Evans kept saying, as blood spilled from his mouth.

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.

Jennings was formally charged Tuesday with attempted murder, court records show. The Weber County attorney also charged him with two counts each of attempted burglary and attempted robbery and possession of a firearm by a restricted person.

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.

He was in critical condition Monday but doctors say he's expected to live, although he'll need reconstructive surgery and rehab to learn to swallow and speak again, Kerwin said.

Court records show Jennings has a criminal record going back to 1996, when he pleaded no contest to several traffic-related misdemeanors. Over the years, he's pleaded no contest to felony charges of failing to yield to police and attempting to receive a stolen vehicle, and misdemeanor charges for traffic violations, criminal trespassing and theft. He's also pleaded guilty to theft charges and a felony charge of attempting to tamper with a witness or juror.

Authorities don't expect to file any charges against Jennings' wife. She was not at Monday's news conference with her mother and another sister at the McDay-Dee Hospital in Ogden. It's not clear whether she knew her husband had the gun, or what she did after he shot her father on Sunday.

Complete coverage of Utah church shooting on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.