CONCEPTION JUNCTION, Mo. — Three people, including two monks, were killed and two others were injured after a gunman opened fire at a Roman Catholic abbey in northwest Missouri, authorities said.
One of the monks was 64 years old and the other monk was described as being in his 80s.
The body of the suspected gunman, 71-year-old Lloyd Jeffress from Kearney, Mo., was found in a chapel with two weapons, an AK-47 and a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle, authorities said. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said that man, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, shot the other victims. He was in the basilica by himself. There were no other victims in there at the time.
One of the injured was in serious condition at Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph and the other was in surgery Monday at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Mo.
Capt. Chris Ricks of the Missouri Highway Patrol said he had no idea of a motive and said it is shocking that anyone would have anything against these individuals. Ricks said the Abbey is one of the most serene, peaceful places you could imagine.
The abbot of Conception, the Rev. Gregory Polan, said he’s been shown a picture of the shooter but that “we have no sense of who this man is.”
Polan described the scene. About 8:40 a.m. Monday morning, Polan thought he heard a window falling and crashing, followed by another two shots. He then went to the hallway to find out what happened, then heard three more shots. Several of the monks came out wondering what was happening. When they realized it was gunshots they were hearing, they went back into their room and barred the door and called 911, explaining what they could see from the window.
He was in the area of the business office of the monastery where people would come in to check on what they were doing for the day. It was fortunate that there were not more people around there at that time, according to Polan.
The Conception Abbey is a Benedictine monastery and seminary. The seminary college on campus is the largest priestly training center in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph led by Bishop Raymond J. Boland. The complex also has a basilica and publishing operation.
Rebecca Summers, spokeswoman for the Kansas City-St. Joseph archdiocese, said her office did not have enough information to make a statement.
The college lists a staff of 19 priests, eight brothers, one sister, six lay professors and a student body of 97.
The abbey is located on a 30-acre rural campus about 90 miles north of Kansas City.
Ronda Strueby, 39, a supervisor in the packaging department of the Abbey’s printing house, said all employees were evacuated about 9 a.m.
“One of the monks, Brother Jeremiah, said there’s a man in the monastery with a gun, and we need everyone to evacuate,” she said. “We were all told to go home.
The Shooting Suspect
Neighbors said Lloyd Jeffress lived at the Kearney Senior Citizens Retirement Community.
Investigators were at the complex searching his apartment around mid-morning.
Neighbors said Jeffress did not socialize, barely spoke to anyone and kept to himself.
Neighbors said they are stunned to hear that he is the suspect in the shooting at Conception Abbey.
“It’s hard to believe that he could be that kind of man,” neighbor Pearl Voyles said.
“I’ve seen him walking a lot, but he is usually not around people,” neighbor Aldeen Crain said.
Neighbors said Jeffress moved into the retirement complex about a year ago.