By Marcus Kabel
NEOSHO, Mo. — A gunman opened fire in the sanctuary of a southwest Missouri church Sunday, killing the pastor, two others and wounding several, authorities said.
About 25 to 50 people were briefly held hostage at the First Congregational Church until the gunman surrendered, Neosho spokeswoman Desiree Bridges said.
''This is a terrible tragedy which was made worse by the fact that it happened in a peaceful place of faith and worship,'' Gov. Matt Blunt said.
One of the deceased was the Rev. Kernal Rehobson, 44, who led the local congregation of predominantly Micronesian worshippers holding the service, police said. He was shot several times.
The shooter was being held at the Newton County Jail. Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges said he was related to someone in the church.
The church opened its doors to the group of worshippers from the Pacific islands that conduct a service in Spanish, said Patty Mendoza, 35, whose friend attends the service.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
''There are a lot of islanders that come here,'' Mendoza said. ''It's terrible. I can't imagine what it was about.''