Sheriff: Texas church shooter killed pastor with his own gun after hiding from police


WINONA, Texas (NewsNation Now) – An overnight manhunt ended in a deadly encounter for a local pastor and the missing suspect inside a Winona, Texas, church on Sunday morning.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith identified the shooter as 21-year-old Myrtez Woolen. He’s currently in the Smith County Jail charged with multiple crimes including capital murder.

According to Smith, Mark Williams, the pastor of the Starrville Methodist Church, confronted the suspect in the church’s bathroom, where Woolen was holding one of the church’s bank bags.

“We’re looking at a capital murder investigation here,” Smith explained.

Even though the pastor was armed, when the two collided inside the church, Woolen was able to disarm him, Smith said.

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Woolen then shot another church member before he fled the church; he also shot at the pastor’s wife but the bullet did not hit her. The member church was hit in the shoulder and is in a hospital in Tyler, Texas, Smith said. Williams died from his injuries. 

Smith, who had a gunshot wound to the hand, was taken into custody.

Smith explained the incident began after police in Lindale, Texas, were pursuing a vehicle around 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Lindale is about 17 miles from Winona. Smith did not say what started the chase, but that the license plates on his car were fake.

The suspect continued driving, ultimately careening into a front yard and running away. Smith said the suspect disappeared into the woods and a fruitless several hours-long manhunt began. It’s now believed he entered the church and remained there until the Sunday morning confrontation.

Harrison County deputies and the Texas Department of Public Safety were able to capture him with help from ONSTAR after a separate high-speed chase on I-20 where speeds reached 120 miles per hour. 

The incident is not believed to be politically or religiously motivated in any way, Smith urged. “The church just happened to be a location he could get into,” he explained.

Smith explained that two of the people involved in the incident were carrying firearms at the time. In reference to church security, Smith added that if people are going to carry firearms, they’ve “got to be willing to use it.”

He explained that he wasn’t, however, blaming or taking fault with the pastor’s actions.

Smith said that the gunman acted alone at that “all the danger is gone.” 

Gov. Abbott released a statement about the incident:

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.


NewsNation affiliates KETK and KXAN contributed to this report.

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