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Church Shooting in Illinois

By: AP/Mike George Email
By: AP/Mike George Email

MARYVILLE, Ill. – A gunman walked down the aisle of a church during a Sunday service and killed the pastor, then stabbed himself and two others as parishioners wrestled him to the ground, authorities said.

The man walked into the sprawling brick First Baptist Church in Maryville shortly after 8 a.m. and briefly spoke with Pastor Fred Winters before pulling out a .45-caliber handgun and shooting Winters once, said Illinois State Trooper Master Trooper Ralph Timmins.

The gun jammed before the man could fire again, Timmins said. The attacker then pulled out a knife and injured himself before churchgoers subdued him. Two parishioners involved in the struggle also suffered knife wounds, Timmins said.

Timmins said officials don't know if Winters and the suspect knew each other.

"We don't know the relationship (between the gunman and pastor), why he's here or what the circumstances came about that caused him in the first place to be here," Timmins said.

Winters was pronounced dead at Anderson Hospital, said spokeswoman Natalie Head.

Two people who were wounded at the church were flown to another hospital, Head said. It was not immediately clear if the patients taken to Anderson included the gunman, but Timmins said the gunman had been taken to a local hospital before being flown another in St. Louis. His condition was not immediately known.

The Rev. Mark Jones, another pastor at First Baptist, said he briefly saw the gunman but did not recognize him by name or face.

"We have no idea what this guy's motives were," Jones said outside the church. "We don't know if we'll ever know that."

Winters, a father of two who had led First Baptist for nearly 22 years, was the former president of the Illinois Baptist State Association and an adjunct professor for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, according to the church's Web site.

"Our great God is not surprised by this, or anything," Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, said in a statement. "That He allows evil and free will to have their way in tragedies like this is a mystery in many ways. But we know we can trust Him no matter what, and draw close to Him in any circumstances."

Maryville is about 20 miles northeast of St. Louis.


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