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Utah man shot in church upgraded to fair condition

OGDEN, Utah — It was a quiet part of the Father’s Day Mass as about 300 people stood up in preparation for communion. A parishioner, known by many at the church as Ricky Jennings, entered through the glass doors in back, holding the hand of his wife, Cheryl.

Seconds later, police say, Jennings fired a single shot at the back of Cheryl’s father’s head, nearly killing him. The loud bang pierced the silence, sending people diving for cover beneath pews and the priest behind the altar.

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‘‘It was echoing in my head so loud,’’ said Rebecca Ory Hernandez, who was only a few feet away with her 5-year-old son. She grabbed the boy, threw him under the pew, and got on top of him. She heard the pastor blurt out an expletive into his microphone. ‘‘I was waiting for another gunman,’’ she said.

The shooter ran from the church, the pastor and a half-dozen other men close on his heels. Ory Hernandez and other parishioners went to James Evans. They used scarves and a shirt to help soak up the blood, and she cradled his head. His wife, Tara, who had been standing next to him, and others prayed.

Meanwhile, Charles Richard Jennings Jr., 35, stole a truck from a nearby neighbor at gunpoint and led police on a highway chase, police said. He was caught hours later on foot after the truck ran out of gas.

Jennings was charged Tuesday with attempted murder. The Weber County attorney also charged him with two counts each of aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery and possession of a firearm by a restricted person.

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