By Carol Robinson

Church members gather for a prayer circle after a shooting at the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Thursday, June 16, 2022 in Vestavia, Ala.

A 79-year-old Alabama man has been named the recipient of a national heroism award after he stopped an active shooter who killed three people at a potluck dinner at a Vestavia Hills church last year.

James W. “Jim” Musgrove will receive the Carnegie Medal for his actions at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on June 16, 2022.

Musgrove, a retired investigator, is one of 15 people receiving the highest civilian honor for heroism. The award is given to people who risk themselves to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others.

Three people were killed in the shooting: Walter “Bart” Rainey, 84, of Irondale; Sarah Yeager, 75, of Pelham; and Jane Pounds, 84.

St. Stephen's Shooting Victims
Jane Pounds, left, Bart Rainey, center and Sarah Sharon Yeager, right. (Contributed)

Robert Findlay Smith, 71, is charged with capital murder. A trial date has not yet been set.

Police responded that Thursday to the church on a report of an active shooter. It happened during a “Boomers Potluck” dinner that started at 5 p.m. at the church.

There were about 25 people at the dinner in the parish hall including Smith, who had previously attended the church and at least one of the potluck dinners.

Smith was sitting alone, and a longtime church member approached him and invited him to sit at a table. He identified himself to victim Rainey only as “Mr. Smith” and refused to join them.

Smith then pulled out a handgun and shot three people.

Musgrove, a church member, did not hesitate to subdue the shooter. The retired investigator lifted a banquet chair and held it in front of him like a shield and ran toward the assailant.

Musgrove released the chair and grabbed the assailant’s hand holding the gun and forced him to drop it. Holding the back of Smith’s neck, Musgrove retrieved the gun and struck the assailant until he was subdued.

He, along with another church member, restrained the assailant until police arrived.

Robert Findlay Smith
Robert Findlay Smith (Jefferson County Jail)

Among the 15 receiving the national award are four passersby who entered unfamiliar burning homes to save their occupants, a man who was shot and paralyzed from the waist-down while attempting to save a store clerk from an armed assailant, and a father who drowned saving his toddler.

Among those saved by the recipients were four children, a 61-year-old man who was trapped in his wheelchair in the basement apartment of a burning building, a 97-year-old woman who could not unlock her front door to escape flames in her burning home and the room full of senior citizen churchgoers attending at the St. Stephen’s potluck dinner.

Each of the recipients or their survivors will receive a financial grant. Throughout the 119 years since the fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, more than $44 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.

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