New Jersey

Texas Church Shooter Told NJ Jail Not to Put Him With Black Inmates, Records Show

Keith Kinnunen spent about 10 months in a New Jersey jail after being arrested outside a refinery with a shotgun

Keith Thomas Kinnunen in a previous mug shot from River Oaks Police Department.
River Oaks Police Dept.

The man who opened fire inside a Texas church in December, killing two people before being shot to death, had racial problems with other inmates while jailed in New Jersey on a gun charge.

Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43, brought a shotgun into the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement during Sunday services last month and opened fire during communion, killing church members Richard White and Anton "Tony" Wallace, according to police.

But he had a troubled record even before the deadly attack. Kinnunen was arrested in September 2016 for possession of an illegal weapon in Linden, New Jersey, after he was found taking pictures outside an oil refinery and a search of his possessions turned up a shotgun.

Jail records, obtained by NBC New York via public records request, show Kinnunen had repeated disciplinary problems over his refusal to move to different units of the Union County Jail.

"This inmate has previously told hearing committee that he did not like black people and would refuse any further movement," a sergeant at the jail wrote in a Sept. 18, 2016 operational report.

Other documents from his file indicate that he asked to be in protective custody rather than be moved into general population because he was having issues getting along with others.

Kinnunen ultimately pleaded guilty to criminal trespass on the New Jersey charges in July 2017 and was sentenced to time served.

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