SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - A shooting incident occurred at the Starrville Methodist Church in Winona on Sunday morning. According to the sheriff, Pastor Mark McWilliams, 62, was killed, and others were injured.
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office held a second press conference with an update about the shooting incident at Starrville Methodist Church on Sunday night.
During the second press conference, Sheriff Larry Smith identified the suspect as Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21. Woolen has been charged with capital murder by terror threat, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury. Collectively, his bond amount has been set at $3.5 million.
Smith said that further investigation revealed that the long string events started in Marshall at about 5:20 p.m. when the suspect, who was later identified as Woolen, was involved in a drive-by shooting incident at one location and shot at a person in another location.
Later, Lindale police officers got a call that a man driving a dark-colored Volkswagen Jetta was driving in the area of FM 849 and Interstate 20 was seen brandishing a shotgun through the vehicle’s sunroof.
The Lindale PD officers went looking for him, but they “never laid eyes on him,” Smith said.
Smith said, a Smith County Sheriff’s Office deputy spotted the suspect at a Chevron station near Lindale sometime later. At that point, the suspect took off at a high rate of speed, Smith said. The SCSO deputy was joined by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, and the chase reached speeds of more than 100 mph.
During the chase, Woolen allegedly exited I-20 on Highway 271 near Gladewater and then turned down FM 757 toward the Starrville community.
Smith said that all this time, the suspect had been driving on a “donut,” or a small spare tire. The spare tire finally gave out near the FM 16 intersection, and one of the DPS troopers rammed the Jetta, knocking it off the road.
The sheriff said the impact caused all of the car’s airbags to deploy, and it made the suspect drop the shotgun. The shotgun was recovered at the scene of the crash, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office. Law enforcement officers also found evidence that possibly identified Woolen.
Woolen then fled the Jetta on foot, Smith said. The sheriff explained that law enforcement officers set up a perimeter around the area. In addition to the officers searching on foot, K-9s were brought in as well.
During the search, law enforcement officers found what they believed was one of Woolen’s shoes outside the perimeter.
“After several hours, the search area was expanded as it was felt that the suspect had escaped the perimeter,” the press release stated.
Smith said to get out of the cold, Woolen broke a window at the Starrville Baptist Church and hid inside at some point Saturday night.
The sheriff said they got a 911 call from the pastor’s wife at about 9:21 a.m. Sunday.
From what law enforcement officers learned in the initial investigation, McWilliams, the church’s 62-year-old pastor, or his wife opened the door to the bathroom and found Woolen hiding inside, Smith said.
A scuffle ensued, and Williams drew a handgun, the sheriff said. Smith said McWilliams, a Frankston resident, told Woolen to lie on the floor. However, when the pastor got distracted, Woolen allegedly lunged at him, took the gun from him, and shot him.
Smith said the other church member who was shot was also armed, but he never got a shot off at the suspect. The church member was shot as was trying to get away from Woolen, the sheriff said. Smith said the church member suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Woolen allegedly shot at McWilliams’ wife as well. She was not hit by the gunfire, but she injured her shoulder when she fell.
Then Woolen, who had some kind of burn injury to his hand, stole a 2018 GMC pickup from the church parking lot, Smith said.
“Luckily, that pickup had the latest technology, and it was equipped with Onstar,” Smith said.
The second chase involved multiple law enforcement agencies, Smith said. He said the agencies coordinated their efforts and were able to get people out in front of the stolen pickup and behind it. At that point, law enforcement asked Onstar to shut the GMC’s engine down,,and it came to a stop.
Woolen was arrested at the scene without any further incident, Smith said. The suspect is currently being held in the Smith County Jail.
A Smith County justice of the peace ordered an autopsy in the case, Smith said. According to the press release, DPS troopers and Texas Rangers are assisting with the ongoing investigation.
Tom Pritchard, who lives next door to Starrville Methodist Church, said Saturday night at about 8 p.m., he and his wife heard loud noises “like something running into something.”
They looked outside and saw five or six law enforcement vehicles, including Smith County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Department of Public Safety patrol units.
Law enforcement officers told them to go inside because the suspect was still at large, Pritchard said.
Pritchard said he and his wife were at their church in Hawkins when the shooting occurred Sunday morning, and they came home when they heard what happened. He added news of the shooting incident hit his wife pretty hard.
“It’s a terrible, terrible thing,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard said he knew the pastor and his wife, and they were friends. He added that they were/are good, Christian people and said he knows the other man who was shot as well.
“He is a super-nice guy,” Pritchard said.
“Our hearts are with the victims and the families of those killed or injured in this terrible tragedy,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in his statement. “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.”