May 8, 2021 07:01

Breaking: More details emerge in today’s fatal church shooting in Texas

Dana Branham

Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — A pastor was fatally shot and one other person was wounded in a shooting at a church in the East Texas community of Starrville on Sunday morning, officials said.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said at a news conference that the shooting suspect, who had been hiding in the church after deputies pursued him in a car chase Saturday night, confronted the pastor when he entered the church about 9:21 a.m.

The pastor was armed and drew his firearm, but the suspect lunged at the pastor and was able to disarm him, the sheriff said.

The suspect then fatally shot the pastor, Smith said. One other person was being treated for gunshot wounds, and another person was taken to a hospital after a fall during the shooting, the sheriff said.

The suspect used the pastor’s firearm in the shooting, Smith said.

About 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the suspect had been pursued by deputies, eventually bailing out of the car he was in and disappearing into the woods.

A manhunt ensued, and officials used drones and dogs to search for him.

After a few hours, the search was called off for the night, and the suspect at some point was able to get inside the church to seek refuge, Smith said.

The suspect stole the pastor’s car and fled after the shooting, the sheriff said. He was tracked down and taken into custody in Harrison County, Smith said.

The sheriff declined to release any information about the suspect but said the department would pursue a capital murder case against him.

The suspect was en route Sunday afternoon to a hospital in Tyler for a gunshot wound through his left hand. It’s unclear when he was shot.

The church was occupied by only about four people when the shooting occurred, and there was no indication there was a religious motivation behind the shooting, the sheriff said.

“The church happened to be the location he could get into and take refuge,” Smith said.

“Our hearts are with the victims and the families of those killed or injured in this terrible tragedy,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Sunday.

Abbott said the state would work 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.”

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