The members of a small Texas church are reeling after the horrific shooting of their pastor on Sunday morning.
62-year-old Starrville Methodist Church Pastor Mark Allen McWilliams was preparing for that morning’s church service. Little did he know when he arrived that day that a wanted criminal had chosen the bathroom of his church to hide from police.
21-year-old Mytrez Deunte Woolen was wanted in connection with a Saturday night incident in Tyler, TX, said Lt. Jay Webb of the Harrison County sheriff’s office according to local news outlet KXAS.
A Smith County Sheriff’s Deputy spotted Woolen’s vehicle that night and attempted to make contact with him. Woolen fled the scene at speeds of up to 100 miles-per-hour until his vehicle crashed on the property of the church, then he ran into the woods.
Woolen reportedly broke into the church to hide sometime between 2 and 9 on Sunday morning.
“As the pastor opened the bathroom door, he was confronted by the individual who had been hiding in the church,” said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith. “Apparently, he fled in the woods and when everyone had left, he retreated into the church. He had one of those red bank bags that belonged to the pastor.”
“The pastor, who had a firearm himself, apparently drew his firearm on the individual and ordered him to stop,” Smith went on. “He came toward the front door then lunged at the pastor and disarmed the pastor. He then used the pastor’s firearm … the pastor is deceased at this time.”
I’m in Winona, Texas where the pastor of Starrville Methodist was shot and killed with his own gun. AP reports the suspect was in a chase, and hid in this church’s bathroom. The pastor pulled out his gun, but was disarmed and shot. Smith County Sheriff on scene. @SpectrumNews1TX pic.twitter.com/4ERiKzr1DS
— Ashley Claster (@AshleyClaster) January 3, 2021
Woolen reportedly shot at McWilliams’ wife as well, but missed. Another member of the congregation was armed but suffered a non-fatal gunshot after confronting Woolen. The shooter then used McWilliams’ 2018 GMC truck to escape, but was arrested after a chase that reached speeds of 120 mph before police located and disabled the vehicle using OnStar technology.
Although it provides no solace, Smith emphasized that the shooting was not motivated by the church or its ministry.
“As far as I’m concerned this is not a church-related or religion-related offense,” Smith said, according to KXAS. “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.”
News of the harrowing events reached the desk of Texas Governor Greg Abbot, who wrote in a statement that “Our hearts are with the victims and the families of those killed or injured in this terrible tragedy.”
“I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who apprehended the suspect, and I ask Texans to join [Cecilia Abbot] and me in praying for those affected by this horrific shooting,” Abbott said, assuring that the state will “ensure that justice is served and that the Starrville community has the resources it needs during this time.”
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