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Gunman kills 3 in Missouri church

NEOSHO, Mo. -- A gunman opened fire in the sanctuary of a southwest Missouri church yesterday afternoon, killing three people and wounding several others, authorities said.

About 25 to 50 people were briefly held hostage at First Congregational Church in Neosho until the suspect surrendered, city spokeswoman Desiree Bridges said.

About four or five people were wounded, Police Chief Dave McCracken said, but several others who were injured fled the scene.

"This is a terrible tragedy, which was made worse by the fact that it happened in a peaceful place of faith and worship," Governor Matt Blunt said in a statement.

The suspect was being held at the Newton County Jail, but police were not releasing any information about him. Bridges said he was related to someone in the church, but declined to elaborate.

No charges had been filed yesterday, McCracken said.

McCracken said he could not confirm whether the suspect was a member of the church. But he said an incident involving the suspect and a family that attended the First Congregational Church on Saturday night fueled the shooting yesterday.

"At this point though, we don't have any information more than that," McCracken said.

The identities of the deceased were being withheld.

The church hosts a Micronesian island congregation, which was conducting services when the shooting rampage occurred, officials said.

The suspect had two small- caliber handguns and one 9 mm semiautomatic machine pistol with a large magazine, McCracken said.