A Starrville Methodist Church pastor was shot dead by a suspect who took refuge in his church while avoiding arrest. The incident took place on a Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. before the services had started.
Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said that authorities were pursuing the suspect overnight before the pastor discovered him inside the church’s bathroom.
The fugitive had stolen the church’s bank bag when Pastor Mark McWilliams, 62, accompanied by his wife and two congregants discovered him.
The deceased pastor ordered the fugitive to stop, when he lunged onto the pastor, grabbed his firearm, and started firing.
Two more individuals present in the church during the incident were injured. One was struck by bullets while the other sustained injuries from falling. The criminal took the pastor’s car as the getaway vehicle before he was apprehended in Harrison County.
“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.”
The pursuit had started near FM 849 after officers discovered Woolen’s fictitious plates on his Volkswagen Jetta.
Someone had reported the suspect brandishing a firearm from his sunroof. When officers ordered him to stop, Woolen defied the officers’ orders and sped away. During the escape, Woolen’s tire popped forcing Woolen to seek refuge. Police started searching for Woolen using dogs and drones.
Lt. Jay Webb of Harrison County sheriff’s office said that the Marshall resident Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, had a gunshot wound to his hand after being involved in another shooting in Tyler on Saturday night.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent his condolences to the victims’ families in a written statement.
"Our hearts are with the victims and the families of those killed or injured in this terrible tragedy," Abbott said in a written statement. "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."
Smith County sheriff said that Woolen would be charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily harm for the shooting of a congregant and capital murder for the death of the pastor.
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