Smith County sheriff identifies pastor killed, suspect in church shooting

Smith County sheriff identifies pastor killed, suspect in church shooting
Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21 (Source: Harrison County Jail)

STARRVILLE, Texas (KLTV) - Sheriff Larry Smith has given an update on Sunday’s fatal shooting in a Winona area church.

Pastor Mark McWilliams, 62, of Frankston, was killed in the Sunday morning incident at his church, Starrville United Methodist.

Law enforcement says Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, is charged in the incident. He is in the Smith County Jail charged with capital murder by terroristic threat/other felony, aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He is held on $3.5 million bond, collectively.

Woolen had an upcoming court date in Tarrant County for assault against a family member/household member by choking. He was to appear Jan. 13, according to court records.

Smith says Lindale PD responded Saturday night to a call regarding a dark-colored Volkswagen Jetta with the driver allegedly waving a shotgun out of the car window. The driver was spotted by a deputy in Lindale at a gas station, who attempted to stop the suspect. The suspect drove away, with the deputy in pursuit. The chase exceeded speeds of 120 mph at times, Smith said.

The Jetta headed eastbound on Interstate 20 and exited at Hwy 271. His “donut” or spare tire blew out, causing him to wreck. That is when he fled into the woods near the Starrville church, Sheriff Smith says.

K-9 officers and numerous other agencies were on the ground tracking the suspect but lost him after he crossed a creek. They did find one of his shoes in that area.

Woolen was found when Pastor McWilliams and his wife and several other people arrived at the church prior to the beginning of the day’s services. When the pastor went into the bathroom of the church, he was confronted by the suspect. The pastor was armed and had the suspect on the floor, but he became distracted and Woolen was able to lunge at McWilliams and take his gun. He fatally shot the pastor, Smith said. Another person was also shot and is hospitalized. A third person, the pastor’s wife, was injured by way of a fall.

As the suspect fled the church, he got into the pastor’s GMC pickup. Because the truck was relatively new, it had ONSTAR capabilities. Law enforcement contacted ONSTAR and had them shut the truck down in Marshall.

The suspect was then taken into custody. He was treated at a local hospital for a burn-type wound to his hand, Smith said, and was then booked into the Smith County Jail.

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On Sunday morning, PIO Larry Christian with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a shooting incident occurred at Starrville Methodist Church on FM 16 in Winona. The 911 call came at 9:21 a.m.

During a news conference, Sheriff Larry Smith said the pastor, his wife, and others came to the church prior to the morning services. The pastor opened a bathroom door and found a man hiding inside with a red bank bag from the church.

A shooting incident occurred at the Starrville Methodist Church in Winona Sunday morning. (Source: KLTV Staff)
A shooting incident occurred at the Starrville Methodist Church in Winona Sunday morning. (Source: KLTV Staff) (Source: KLTV Staff)

The sheriff said the pastor drew his gun and ordered the man to stop, but the man was able to lunge at the pastor and get the pistol. At that point, the suspect shot the pastor and one other person before he ran from the church and stole a vehicle from the church’s parking lot, Smith said. He added that another person at the church was injured in a fall.

During the news conference, Smith explained that law enforcement learned the man was hiding in the church following a shooting incident Saturday night. The man had wrecked out during a chase and took off into the woods on foot, Smith said. Drones and dogs were brought in to assist with the search, but authorities could not find the suspect, who had hidden in the church, as we now know.

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