FORT WORTH, Texas — Six days after Larry Gene Ashbrook walked into Wedgwood Baptist Church and opened fire, killing seven and wounding seven, the Rev. Al Meredith turned his thoughts to the family of the deranged gunman.
"People were being so kind to us, and the thought struck me, 'What about the Ashbrook family?’ " Meredith said. " 'Oh geez, they are going to be vilified by the press, by their neighbors.’
"We had to deal with grief. They had to deal with grief and shame."
That evening, Meredith, who had buried his own mother just two days before the shootings, met Ashbrook’s two sisters and his brother, Aaron, at a downtown office building.
Meredith — known affectionately as Brother Al — embraced the sobbing strangers, prayed with them and told them that no one at Wedgwood blamed them for the actions of their mentally ill brother, who eventually killed himself while sitting in the sanctuary of the church. Aaron Ashbrook said he was deeply moved by the meeting, the first of many with Meredith in the years after the shootings.
"You have all of those people in the hospital, some who are really critical, and all of these children and adults that were traumatized, and he has time to think of my family?" Ashbrook said. "That is what helped get us through."
Until this week, Ashbrook, 68, had never spoken publicly about the tragedy of Sept. 15, 1999, and the anguish of its aftermath. The guilt was always too great, the pain too raw.
But now, on the 10th anniversary of the deadliest massacre in city history, Ashbrook said he wants the public to know about the people of Wedgwood Baptist Church and how they helped him — the killer’s brother — heal.
Read the complete story at star-telegram.com