A 74-year-old man faces possible charges after his gun went off in a Mormon meetinghouse in Provo on Sunday, penetrating a wall into a room where church members were meeting.
No one was struck; no one was injured.
According to Lt. Brian Taylor, Provo police responded to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward house at 345 E. Foothill Drive about 2 p.m. on Sunday. The man “had a .22-caliber revolver in his backpack.” He was in the vestibule at the entrance to the church when “the gun went off and the bullet went through the adjoining wall where young women were meeting.”
Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said the man had left the gun in his backpack “following target shooting the previous day,” adding, “We are confident that the building and its members are safe."
The man has a concealed carry permit, according to Taylor; the case has been referred to the city attorney’s office for possible charges.
The MormonLeaks website released an audio recording of an unidentified church leader encouraging the teenage girls in the ward, or congregation, not to talk about the incident publicly or post anything on social media.
“We'd rather have you not post, 'Hey, a gun went off today at church.' That will hit headline news and even go national,” said the man. “And then we've really created a situation that would be hard to control. So I'm asking you nicely to respect that.”
While Hawkins and the police indicated what happened was an accident, the unidentified leader says, “There have been some other threats against other individuals in a different ward” that shares the building, “so there’s a particular level of precaution that the other ward ... has taken.”
He told the girls that “spreading [the story] around … could incite the issue that they were trying to protect against.”
He did not specify what that threat was.
Hawkins reiterated the church’s policy on guns: “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.”
Correction: 2:50 p.m. Sept. 17: This story has been updated to correctly describe the location inside the church where the gun went off. An earlier version incorrectly described the location, based on erroneous information provided by Provo police.