Ogden • A slight move, made as his son-in-law allegedly fired a gun, may have saved James Evans’ life.
"He turned his head at the right time," said Evans’ wife, Tara Evans. "If he hadn’t turned his head, he would have been [shot] in the back of the head."
James Evans, who turns 66 Tuesday, was identified Monday as the victim of Sunday’s church shooting in Ogden. At a news conference at McKay-Dee Hospital with the Evans family, Barbara Kerwin, the hospital’s ICU medical director, said the bullet entered near Evans’ right ear and exited through his cheek. He did not suffer brain damage. And though Evans’ jaw will need to be reconstructed, he is expected to recover.
Police are investigating why the man’s 35-year-old son-in-law, Charles Richard Jennings Jr., of North Ogden, walked into the Catholic church and allegedly shot him while he was worshipping.
Ogden police Lt. Danielle Croyle said Jennings’ father-in-law and his family were attending Sunday morning services just before noon at St. James the Just Catholic Church, 495 N. Harrison Blvd., when Jennings walked into the church, pulled out a gun and shot the man.
Jennings then ran from the church into a nearby neighborhood and allegedly stole a truck from a stranger at gunpoint. He was captured several hours later walking along Interstate 84 in Box Elder County after the truck ran out of gas as he apparently attempted to flee to Idaho.
Croyle said police plan to test Jennings’ blood to determine if he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol during the shooting. Jennings has not been charged with a crime, though Croyle said prosecutors may examine the case Monday and determine charges. Croyle expects Jennings to be arraigned in court Tuesday.
Jennings’ criminal history is limited to lower-level felonies and a misdemeanor, including theft and drug possession. In 2004, Jennings was convicted of theft and trying to tamper with a witness or juror, for which he served about a year in prison, according to Steve Gehrke, Utah Department of Corrections spokesman.
As a convicted felon, Jennings was not allowed to have a firearm. Croyle could not speak to how he obtained the handgun.
Jim Evans’ pastor could not shed light on Jennings motive for the shooting although there were warning signs, he said.
"There had been threats," said the Rev. Erik Richtsteig, friend of the family and godfather to one of their grandchildren, but he declined to elaborate. "The focus now needs to be on Jim ... on people who are hurt," he added.
The St. James church members aren’t the only ones praying for the Evans. Richtsteig had just returned Friday from a church trip to the Holy Land with a group of parishioners, including Jim and Tara Evans. Richtsteig heard that their tour guide had arranged for a prayer in Nazareth, Israel, for Jim Evans during the Mass on Monday.
The Mass schedule at St. James has returned to normal. Richtsteig had to cancel the Sunday evening Mass, since the building was a crime scene, but services resumed Monday morning.
"I didn’t want evil to win," he said.
Richtsteig also plans to hold a liturgy of reparation Thursday evening to cleanse the church of the evil that happened there, per Catholic tradition.
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