Monday, 4 January 2021

PICTURED: Suspect who shot dead pastor with his own gun and was found hiding in church bathroom after being hunted for pointing the weapon out of his sunroof

 A suspect is in custody after a pastor was shot dead with his own gun on Sunday morning.

The tragedy occurred after a car chase by the suspect who hid from Texas police in a church overnight and then wrestled the weapon off the pastor before firing it. 

The victim, 62-year-old Pastor Mark McWilliams, ultimately died from his injuries and several others were injured at the Starrville Methodist Church near Winona. A second person was also wounded in the shooting.  

Sgt. Larry Christian of the Smith County Sheriff's office said deputies were called to the church to respond to the shooting around 9:20am. 

The shooter, 21-year-old Mytrez Deunte Woolen, who had a gunshot wound to the hand, is now in custody and charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and capital murder.

He has been booked into the Smith County Jail on $3,500,000 bond. 

It's believed he had been involved in a car chase the previous night.

Pictured: Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, of Marshall, Texas, is taken into custody in Harrison, Texas

Pictured: Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, of Marshall, Texas, is taken into custody in Harrison, Texas

Woolen received a gunshot wound to his hand as he was being arrested by police in Texas

Woolen received a gunshot wound to his hand as he was being arrested by police in Texas

Woolen fled on foot after the tire in his car blew before reportedly hiding in the toilets of the church where he was discovered.

The Smith County Sheriff, Larry Smith, declined to say why authorities had been searching for the man. Authorities had been using dogs and drones to search for the man late on Saturday night in woods near Winona, according to KLTV

On Sunday afternoon, Smith explained that the incident began after police in Lindale received calls about the suspect on Saturday evening, but were unable to find his vehicle. 

Deputies saw the vehicle later on and a pursuit began around 7:30pm on Saturday. Woolen was said to have been pointing his gun out of the sunroof of the car.  

The suspect continued driving and police gave chase for around 20 miles before Woolen ultimately careened into a front yard of the church and ran away.

Smith said the suspect disappeared into the woods and a fruitless search lasting several hours began. 


Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith speaks to the media on Sunday to explain what happened

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith speaks to the media on Sunday to explain what happened

The Smith County Sheriff's Office investigates a fatal shooting incident at the Starville Methodist Church in Winona, Texas, on Sunday morning. A suspect who fled has been arrested, said the sheriff's office

The Smith County Sheriff's Office investigates a fatal shooting incident at the Starville Methodist Church in Winona, Texas, on Sunday morning. A suspect who fled has been arrested, said the sheriff's office

An officer had been searching around the church area until 10.30pm along with a drone and K-9 unit but the suspect was not found, however it is now believed he likely entered the church about 2:30am and remained there until the Sunday morning's confrontation at 9: 30am.

The armed pastor is said to have then opened the door to the toilet stall the following morning, finding Woolen together with the church's red bank bag. The two are said to have become involved in a struggle. 

Woolen is thought to have disarmed McWilliams before shooting and killing him. 

Sheriff Smith says Woolen shot at the pastor's wife, Rosemary, but missed. However, she did sustain a shoulder injury from a fall while running away. 

He then stole the pastor's car and headed onto the Interstate where he drove at speeds of up to 120mph before being caught in Harrison County with a gunshot wound to his hand. 

He was known to law enforcement and was a suspect in a previous drive-by shooting. 

It's believed Woolen had been involved in a car chase the previous night before being found hiding in the church's toilets by the pastor on Sunday morning

It's believed Woolen had been involved in a car chase the previous night before being found hiding in the church's toilets by the pastor on Sunday morning

The armed pastor is thought to have discovered Woolen, pictured, in the toilets of the church. The two become involved in an altercation and Woolen is thought to have disarmed the pastor before shooting and killing him

The armed pastor is thought to have discovered Woolen, pictured, in the toilets of the church. The two become involved in an altercation and Woolen is thought to have disarmed the pastor before shooting and killing him

Authorities had been using dogs and drones to search for the man late Saturday in woods near Winona. An officer had been around the church area until 10.30pm but the suspect was not found. He had been hiding inside the church until Sunday morning when he was discovered

Authorities had been using dogs and drones to search for the man late Saturday in woods near Winona. An officer had been around the church area until 10.30pm but the suspect was not found. He had been hiding inside the church until Sunday morning when he was discovered 

Sgt. Christian said there were no services going on when the shooting took place. 

Woolen 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. 

'I don't think it's going to be any kind of hate motivation or anything,' Christian said.

Governor Greg Abbott sent his condolences.

'Our hearts are with the victims and the families of those killed or injured in this terrible tragedy,' Abbott said. '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. The State of Texas is working closely with first responders and local officials to ensure that justice is served and that the Starrville community has the resources it needs during this time.' 

Numerous state troopers and sheriff's deputies could be seen outside the church, which was cordoned off with yellow tape late Sunday morning.

Winona is a small town about 100 miles east of Dallas. Starrville Methodist was built in 1853, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

Woolen was wanted after he had been spotted pointing a shot gun out of the sunroof of his car

Woolen was wanted after he had been spotted pointing a shot gun out of the sunroof of his car

Woolen appears to have taken shelter in the church out of convenience and there's nothing to indicate the shooting was motivated by religious animus

Woolen 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 victim, Pastor Mark McWilliams, was found dead at the Starrville Methodist Church near Winona. A second person was wounded in the shooting (stock image)

The victim, Pastor Mark McWilliams, was found dead at the Starrville Methodist Church near Winona. A second person was wounded in the shooting (stock image)

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