TEAM COVERAGE: Starrville Methodist Church pastor shot to death; congregation heartbroken

Texas

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, of Arlington, was charged with capital murder in the shooting death of a Methodist minister at his church Sunday morning, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said.

The victim is Mark Allen McWilliams, 62, of Frankston, pastor of Starrville Methodist Church, located on FM 757 at FM 16.

Suspect: Mytrez Deunte Woolen

Woolen struggled with the pastor who had a gun and allegedly shot him and then as he was fleeing the property allegedly shot a church member, Smith said during a news conference.

Congregation members said the second person shot was Mike Seller. Seller was hit by a bullet in the shoulder and is in a Tyler hospital. Seller’s injuries are believed to be non-life threatening.

McWilliams’ wife was injured when she fell and hurt her shoulder.


EVENING NEWS CONFERENCE

“It’s just broken, my heart is just broken,” congregation member Carla Manuel said.

Congregation members are struggling to make sense of what happened. “Someone broke our family up.” she said. “It’s not fair. … We are all heartbroken. This has been devastating to us.”

Woolen also shot at the pastor’s wife, Rosemary, but the bullet did not hit her, the sheriff said.

After the shootings, the suspect took a 2018 GMC truck that belonged to the pastor. DPS troopers and other law officers eventually caught up to and started following the truck as it headed to Marshall. OnStar was notified and disabled the truck, leading to Woolen’s arrest in Marshall, Smith said.

During the arrest, Woolen’s hand was injured.

Law officers take Woolen in custody in Harrison County.

Smith said Woolen also was wanted in connection with a drive-by shooting that took place in Marshall Saturday night.

Woolen is in Smith County Jail charged with multiple crimes including capital murder. His bonds total $3.5 million.

Congregation member David Barber said he went to the hospital when he learned that his friend, Seller, was injured.

“As soon as I heard about it (the shootings) I was sick in my stomach,” Barber said. “And I immediately got up and left and went directly to the hospital as soon as I found out.”

Smith said law officers were notified Saturday night that someone in a dark-colored Volkswagen Jetta in the Lindale area had a shotgun sticking out the sun roof. This person turned out to be Woolen.

A deputy spotted the Jetta at a gas station, which set off a chase. Smith said that at times Woolen was going more than 100 mph.

Woolen fled east. On the Starrville Methodist Church property, he wrecked the car and then ran into the woods behind the church, leaving the shotgun behind, Smith said.

Smith County authorities and DPS troopers carried out a large search that used drones and search dogs but did not find him, Smith said.

“After several hours, the search area was expanded as it was felt that the suspect had escaped the perimeter,” Smith said during the Sunday night news conference.


AFTERNOON NEWS CONFERENCE

Smith said that sometime after law officers left the area in predawn hours Sunday, Woolen was able to get inside the church by breaking out a window.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, before services began, McWilliams came across Woolen who was trying to hide in the back area of the church. Smith said McWilliams drew a pistol on Woolen but Woolen was allegedly able to get his pistol and shoot the pastor.

Smith said McWilliams’ wife called 911.

Church member Tom Pritchard, who lives near the church, described the congregation as “a super good church. Everyone was just really good friends. We just enjoyed getting together and talking and praising the Lord and being together.”

Pritchard said of McWilliams, “He was quite the character, yeah he was a good guy.”

Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement on the shooting.

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 horrible shooting.

Gov. Greg Abbott

“Texas will seek swift justice for the shooter,” Abbott added later Sunday night “We thank law enforcement for their response. Keep the harmed in your prayers.”

Starrville Methodist Church

Smith said Sunday night that this is still an active homicide case but no other suspects are being sought.

Starrville CME Church, which is located near the Starrville Methodist Church released the following statement: “We are praying for our neighboring church, the Starrville Methodist Church congregation. May God grant each member affected by this tragedy peace and comfort during this difficult time.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said on Twitter: “Please join Jan and I in prayer for the victims of the horrific church shooting in the Starrville Methodist Church in Smith County. Our brave responders have apprehended the suspect.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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