One person is dead and three more, including the suspect, were injured following a shooting at an East Texas church Sunday morning.
According to the Smith County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), the shooting took place at Starrville Methodist Church, located on Farm-to-Market Road 16 in Winona. The church is more than 160-years-old.
On Saturday around 7:30 p.m., the Lindale Police Department (LPD) responded to several calls regarding the driver of a dark-colored passenger car near the intersection Farm-to-Market Road 849 and Interstate 20. Police were told the driver, identified as Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, of Marshall, was pointing a gun out the sunroof of the vehicle. Police never saw the vehicle, but responded to the area when, minutes later, an SCSO deputy saw the suspect vehicle in the parking lot of the Chevron convenience store, located at 303 South Main Street in Lindale.
At this time, the deputy attempted to stop the Woolen, but he drove off at a high rate of speed and a chase ensued. Officials say Woolen drove west on South Street and eventually turned east onto Farm-to-Market Road 16. He then traveled south on Farm-to-Market Road 849 before getting on Interstate 20, headed east. The chase continued on I-20 with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers joining the in. The SCSO says Woolen exited onto Highway 271 before turning onto Farm-to-Market Road 757. At the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 757 and Farm-to-Market Road 16, the SCSO says Woolen’s vehicle ran off the road where it came to a stop on the property of Starrville Methodist Church. Officials say Woolen got out of the vehicle an ran into the woods behind the church.
The SCSO used deputies, K-9 units and a drone as they tried to located Woolen. After several hours, the search area was expanded as officials felt Woolen had escaped the established perimeter. The SCSO says evidence in the vehicle led officials to the suspect’s identity. A shotgun was also found.
“Law enforcement personnel remained in the area for several hours in an attempt to locate the suspect,” a press release from the SCSO said. “Additionally, the shotgun that had been displayed by the suspect was recovered at the scene of the crash during the pursuit.”
Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith believes Woolen hid in the church sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Sunday.
Sunday morning, the church’s pastor, Mark McWilliams, 62, of Frankston, opened a stall in the bathroom and found Woolen, the SCSO said. According to Sheriff Smith, McWilliams was armed, pointed a gun at the Woolen and asked him to leave. However, Sheriff Smith says Woolen disarmed the McWilliams, shot and killed him. CBS19’s newspaper partner, the Tyler Morning Telegraph, confirmed the pastor’s identity with law enforcement after family members had been notified. Officials say Woolen also shot a male victim who underwent surgery for non-life threatening injuries. 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.
The SCSO says Woolen then stole the pastor’s car. According to officials, the vehicle had OnStar, which was instrumental in later locating Woolen.
The Harrison County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) says the SCSO attempted to stop the vehicle in Smith County, but Woolen took off east on Interstate 20. Woolen continued driving reaching speeds as high as 120 miles per hour on I-20, according to the HCSO.
“As they entered Harrison County, Harrison County DPS units and Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted in the pursuit of the vehicle,” the HCSO said in a press release.