A fugitive on the run from law enforcement killed a pastor and injured another at an East Texas church early Sunday morning after disarming the pastor and firing the weapon, authorities said.
The atrocious shooting took place at Starrville Methodist Church in Winona, Texas, a small town about 100 miles east of Dallas, after the suspect, 21-year-old Mytrez Deunte Woolen, was discovered hiding from police in the church.
Woolen had allegedly been involved in another shooting on Saturday night in Tyler but had fled law enforcement, KXAS-TV reported. He reportedly broke into the church at around 2 a.m. local time on Sunday after police had left the area.
Upon arriving ahead of the Sunday morning service, Pastor Mark McWilliams, 62, found Woolen hiding in the bathroom and holding bank bags that belonged to the church. McWilliams brandished a shotgun and ordered Woolen to lie on the floor, but Woolen refused, instead lunging for the gun.
Woolen was able to disarm the pastor and opened fire, striking him. McWilliams ultimately died from his injuries. Two others were reportedly injured during the incident, one by gunfire and one from a fall.
Woolen then stole the pastor’s pickup truck and fled the scene, leading police on a road chase that at times exceeded 120 mph, the news outlet said. Police eventually apprehended the suspect, who had a gunshot wound to his hand, and took him into custody.
According to KXAN-TV, Woolen is now facing charges of aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and capital murder.
Authorities do not believe the crime was carried out for religious or political reasons, but instead suspect Woolen simply took advantage of the opportunity to hide in the church.
“The church just happened to be a location he could get into,” explained Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith on Sunday.
Smith added that Woolen was known to law enforcement and was previously suspected of a drive-by shooting. He said police used dogs and drones to search for the suspect but were unable to locate him on Saturday night.
“We’re looking at a capital murder investigation here,” he confirmed.
While explaining he wasn’t blaming or finding fault in the actions of church members present at the scene, he said that people brandishing a firearm “got to be willing to use it.” Two of the people involved in the incident were reportedly carrying guns at the time.