Pastor dead, 2 hurt in Texas church shooting; suspect held

6 months ago 19
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Jan. 3 (UPI) -- One person was killed and a suspect was taken into custody after a shooting at a church in East Texas on Sunday morning.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said Sunday that the person killed in the shooting was the pastor of Starville Methodist Church. Another person was undergoing surgery for a gunshot injury and a female victim was injured in a fall. Starville is 100 mile east of Dallas.

Police had been pursuing the suspect on Saturday night in a car chase during which he brandished a shotgun through the sunroof of his vehicle.

He crashed his car through a yard near the church and law enforcement searched the area for about two hours but found no sign of the man.

At 9:21 a.m. on Sunday the pastor opened the door to the bathroom and confronted the man, who had been hiding in the church, said Smith.

The pastor drew a firearm and told the suspect to stop, at which point the suspect disarmed the pastor and shot him with his own weapon.

Smith said he did not believe the shooting was a "church-related or religion-related offense," noting the suspect was seen holding a red bank bag when he encountered the pastor.

"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."

Texas Gov. Abbott issued a statement offering condolences to the victims and their families.

"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 and me in praying for those affected by this horrific shooting," he said.

Abbott added that the state is "working closely with first responders and local officials to ensure that the justice is served and that the Starville community has the resources it needs during this time."

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