SMITH COUNTY, Texas — A small town Texas pastor was fatally shot with his own weapon after confronting a pursuit suspect who had been hiding in the Church overnight, officials said.
The incident occurred at the Starrville Methodist Church in Winona, Texas.
KLTV reported: Sheriff Larry Smith said the pastor, his wife, and others came to the church. The pastor opened a bathroom door and found a man hiding inside with a red bank bag from the church.
The sheriff said the pastor drew his gun and ordered the man to stop, but the man was able to lunge at the pastor and get the pistol. At that point, the suspect shot the pastor and one other person before he ran from the church and stole a vehicle from the church’s parking lot, Smith said. He added another person at the church was injured in a fall.
During the press conference, Smith explained that law enforcement learned the man was hiding in the church following a shooting incident Saturday night. The man had wrecked out during a chase and took off into the woods, Smith said. Drones and dogs were brought in to assist with the search, but authorities could not find the suspect.
Smith said law enforcement, with the help of Onstar, were able to track down the stolen vehicle and the man was eventually taken into custody following a chase of over 120 miles per hour on I-20. He was taken into custody after being stopped in Marshall. Before the man was arrested, he was shot in the hand, and he is now being treated at a Tyler hospital, Smith said.
“As far as i’m concerned this is not a church-related or religion-related offense,” Smith said. “This was an opportunity that was convenient for the guy to come out of the woods … and apparently he was still there when they came to the church this morning.”
“Our hearts are with the victims and the families of those killed or injured in this terrible tragedy,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said. “I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who apprehended the suspect, and I ask Texans to join Cecilia and me in praying for those affected by this horrific shooting. The State of Texas is working closely with first responders and local officials to ensure that justice is served and that the Starrville community has the resources it needs during this time.”
DEVELOPING: 1 dead, others wounded in shooting at church in Smith County, Texas pic.twitter.com/HcCl2oGGc5
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) January 3, 2021