Sheriff: Pastor dead, 2 hurt in shooting at East Texas church

Police siren (Generic photo)
Police siren (Generic photo)

WINONA, Texas (AP) – A pastor was killed and two other people were injured in a shooting at an East Texas church Sunday after the pastor confronted a man who had hidden from police in the church overnight, a local sheriff said.

Authorities had been using dogs and drones to search for the man late Saturday in woods near Winona following a car chase, and the pastor of the nearby Starrville Methodist Church discovered him hiding in a church bathroom Sunday morning, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said at a news conference.

Smith said he did not know why the man was initially being pursued but that the license plates on his vehicle were “fictitious.”

The pastor drew a gun and ordered the man to stop, Smith said, but the man grabbed the weapon and began shooting with it. The pastor was killed, a second person was injured by gunfire and another was hurt in a fall.

The man then stole the pastor’s vehicle and fled east before being arrested by deputies in nearby Harrison County, Smith said. He said the man was hospitalized Sunday afternoon with gunshot wounds to his hand, but that it’s unclear when he was shot.

Smith declined to identify the pastor, the other people injured or the suspect. The sheriff said the shooting suspect will likely face a capital murder charge.

The shooting was reported around 9:20 a.m., and there were no services going on at that time, said Sgt. Larry Christian, of the sheriff’s office. Smith said the pastor, his wife and two other people were in the church at the time.

The man appears to have taken shelter in the church out of convenience and there’s nothing to indicate the shooting was motivated by religious animus, the sheriff said.