Senior members of the First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains, Tennessee were clearing up after a lunch held to celebrate Thanksgiving when they started talking about guns in church.
Tellico Plains Police Chief Russ Parks said a man in his 80s pulled out a .380 calibre Ruger handgun and stated he took his handgun everywhere, reports Sunday Express.
According to the police officer, the man removed the magazine, cleared the chamber, and showed the gun to some of the men in the church. He put the magazine back in, apparently loaded a round in the chamber, and returned the gun to its holster.
Mr Parks said: “Somebody else walked up and said, ‘Can I see it?’ He pulled it back out and said, ‘With this loaded indicator, I can tell that it’s not loaded.’”
The gun was lying on its side on a table. The bullet sliced the palm of the man’s upward-facing hand, then entered the left side of his wife’s abdomen and exited the right side.
Both the husband and wife, who is also in her 80s, were flown to the University of Tennessee Medical Center with injuries that police said didn’t appear to be life-threatening.
Mr Parks said: “Evidently he just forgot that he re-chambered the weapon.”
Mr Parks said charges would not be filed.
One of the victims has been identified as Annabelle Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of the Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy.
The killer fled the scene in a car after being chased by a civilian who confronted him inside the church.
Witness Carrie Matula told NBC News: “We heard semi-automatic gunfire.
“We’re only about 50 yards away from this church.”
“This is a very small community, so everyone was very curious as to what was going on.”