ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI — A former pastor is facing murder, sodomy, and kidnapping charges after he allegedly attacked three women at a religious supply store on Wednesday.
Thomas Bruce, 53, was charged in connection with the attack which reportedly took place while he was robbing the store. He allegedly forced the three women into a back room at gunpoint, exposed himself, and forced the women to perform “deviant sexual acts” on him, according to a criminal complaint cited by USA Today.
When one of the women refused his demands, he shot her in the head, killing her. He later fled the scene.
According to various reports, Bruce was active on social media, posting about veterans issues and voicing his opposition to gun control.
“We should stop expecting criminals to follow the rules,” he wrote just last week. “I’m hoping we end gun-free zones and put the criminals on notice that they will be stopped.”
In a separate post from last week, he called on people to give their support to veterans who are contemplating suicide. He reportedly served in the U.S. Navy back in the 80s.
In 2003, he founded an evangelical Christian church called Calvary Chapel and worked there until 2007. He was also associated with several other churches in Missouri.
On his Twitter bio, he included the pro-Trump hashtag “#MAGA” and “#donttreadonme,” which is common among a certain faction of far-right conservatives. On his timeline, he repeatedly retweeted pro-Trump figures such as Candace Owens and Fox News host Laura Ingraham.
As Heavy.com points out, just days before the attack, Bruce posted on Facebook about gun control. In the comment thread, he wrote, ” I truly believe that this is a clear look into the past and we should be able to keep with our 2nd amendment rights…if we give up on one of the amendments… what’s stopping the government from taking more? … we should stop expecting criminals to follow the rules. I’m hoping we end gun- free zones and put the criminals on notice that they will be stopped.”
“there are 5 words within the 2nd that our government is distorting…. Shall not be infringed upon,” he added. “The mental issue is a murky one. On one hand, it’s obvious that a gun in the hands of an unstable person is unthinkable…. but more kill which are not unstable…. just evil. Darkness arises when the light dims.”
He also attended a Donald Trump rally on November 6. His Facebook profile picture is of an American flag with the words, “President Trump, 2020 — Keeping America Great!”
Bruce pretended to be a customer before leaving and returning with a gun, authorities said. Bruce is then accused of holding up the store at gunpoint and forcing three women to strip in the back office of the store. Police say that he then sexually assaulted two of them, forcing the women to perform “deviant sexual acts.” When Bruce attempted to force a third woman, identified as Jamie Schmidt, to perform the same act, she refused, and police say Bruce shot her [in the head], killing her. Bruce then continued to sexually assault the other two victims before fleeing from the store before police arrived.
Bruce faces 17 counts, which include first-degree murder, sodomy and attempted sodomy, kidnapping and other crimes.
Featured image via St. Louis County Police Department