ELLICOTT CITY, Md. – A disgruntled homeless man fatally shot a secretary and critically wounded a priest in the office of a Maryland Episcopal church after he was turned away from the food bank because of his increasingly aggressive behavior, police said Friday.
After killing Brenda Brewington, 59, and wounding the Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, 62, Douglas F. Jones killed himself with the handgun in the woods where he lived near St. Peter's Episcopal Church, about 14 miles west of Baltimore, police said.
"He's been described as argumentative and belligerent, and at some point they asked him to leave and not return. If there was a motive here, we believe that may have contributed in some way," Howard County Police Department spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.
Brewington, of Ellicott City, was pronounced dead Thursday evening at the church after a custodian discovered the scene and called police.
Kohn, of Halethorpe, remained in critical condition Friday afternoon at Shock Trauma in Baltimore, according to police and hospital officials. She had been co-rector of the parish since 2009 and associate rector since 2003.
The incident provoked grief, anger and prayerful reflection at the opening Friday of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland's two-day annual convention in Hunt Valley, said the Right Rev. Eugene T. Sutton, bishop of Maryland.
He said the anger was directed at a society that would let a deranged man have a handgun.
"How is it that someone as mentally unstable, and who is on the edge, mentally, how does he get a gun to wreak that havoc?" Sutton said. "And of course, it's very painful for us that that violence happened in a holy place."
Llewellyn said police were investigating the gun's registration and history.
Sutton said he planned to conduct a private service Sunday for members of the St. Peter's congregation at a nearby Episcopal church.
He said Kohn was unmarried and childless. He didn't know if Brewington was married or had children.
Kohn had a Ph.D. in pastoral counseling, Sutton said. He said he had asked her just last week to counsel members of another parish grieving over their priest's serious illness.
Brewington had served for seven years as St. Peter's administrative assistant, Sutton said.
"She worked directly with the community to provide assistance to those in need," he said. "Church secretaries, for most churches, are the first point of contact with those in need. The church secretaries are our front-line ministers, even more than priests."
Llewellyn said police don't believe Jones specifically targeted the pair.
"We believe they happened to be the people there when he came in with a gun," she said.