Tuesday, January 19

Texas church shooting leaves pastor dead

(CNN) — A man accused of killing a Texas church pastor Sunday had hidden from police in the church bathroom after a high-speed chase the night before, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said.

Police identified the suspect aMoreeDebatete Woolen, 21, who was charged with aggravated assault while exhibiting a deadly weapon, aggravated assault that caused serious bodily injury and capital murder in the first degree, according to a press release from the Bureau. Smith County Sheriff’s Office.

CNN has not been able to determine whether Woolen has legal representation.

The sheriff’s office identified the slain pastor as Mark Allen McWilliams, 62, of Frankston, Texas.

A persecution that ended in a Texas church

The incident began Saturday when the Lindale Police Department responded to multiple calls for service regarding a dark-colored Volkswagen Jetta. Agents received reports that a firearm had been displayed through the sunroof of the car, Smith said at a news conference Sunday night.

Shortly after, at 7:30 p.m., a Smith County agent spotted the suspect’s vehicle at a convenience store and tried to stop him, but the car sped away. Officers chased him down and were eventually joined by officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Smith said.

The vehicle was speeding, but one of its tires was a spare that gave out during the chase, causing the Jetta to crash into property near the Starrville Methodist Church in Winona, Smith said.

The car had been hit by a unit from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Smith said, causing the airbags to deploy. A shotgun was found in the vehicle, he said.

I surround the suspect

Smith said a perimeter was set up, with the help of a canine unit and drones, for several hours. Agents searched the woods for the suspect and found part of a shoe or boot believed to be wearing, Smith said.

The next morning, before 9:30 a.m., Smith County dispatchers received a call that there had been a shooting at the church.

“What we believe happened this morning is that the suspect backtracked on his way, after officers left the area, and came back out of the cold, entered through a broken window and entered the church,” Smith said Sunday. He “was still in the church bathroom with the door closed when the pastor or his wife … opened the door and met him.”

McWilliams was armed and was able to get the suspect to lie on the ground, Smith said.

“However, there was some confusion during that time. He made the suspect lie on the ground… the pastor got distracted… talking to his wife and the suspect pounced on him and was able to remove the firearm from his” Smith, ”Smith said.

Fatal shot

The suspect fatally shot the pastor, Smith said.

Two people were also injured, one from a gunshot wound and the other from a fall. The shooting victim was in surgery Sunday and his condition is unknown, Smith said. Smith described his injuries as non-life threatening.

The suspect later took one of the victims’ vehicles, Smith said, but the 2018 GMC truck was equipped with OnStar technology, which was used to track and then disable the vehicle.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott offered his condolences in a statement Sunday.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and families of those killed or injured in this terrible tragedy,” Abbott said.

“I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who detained the suspect and ask Texans to join Cecilia and me in praying for those affected by this horrific shooting. The state of Texas is working closely with emergency services and local officials to ensure that justice is served and that the Starrville community has the resources it needs during this time.

CNN’s Gregory Lemos contributed to this report.

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