Monday, March 9, 2009
Fred Winters Gunned Down By Terry Sedlacek While Preaching To His Congregation? Keith Melton and Terry Bullard Subdue the Attacker
Is it even safe to attend service anymore? Is it just another excuse for atheists to justify not attending religious service? When violence strikes our nation's churches, it causes more than the usual mumblings. The latest incident occurred in Maryville, Illinois. Fred Winters, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Maryville, was shot to death during a service on Sunday. Two parishioners (Terry Bullard and Keith Melton) suffered knife wounds when they tackled the 27 year old gunman after his gun jammed. The shooting occurred during the 8 a.m. service. The attacker (believed to be Terry Sedlacek) and two parishioners were cut during the altercation. The gunman walked up to the pulpit and exchanged words with Winters. He then fired four shots, destroying the pastor's Bible and killing Winters. It is unclear whether the pastor recognized the gunman.
Fortunately, the .45-caliber pistol jammed after he shot Winters or others may have been killed. After the gun jammed, the attacker pulled out a knife as he was tackled by two parishioners. 150 worshippers witnessed the attack. The attackers injuries are "very serious," according to Illinois state police spokesman Ralph Timmins. Watch Police Description of Heroes.
When shots rang out, most parishioners fell to their knees "screaming and praying." But at least two took action and subdued the gunman. Winters, 27, was married and had two children. He was considered a pleasant pastor who was well liked by the congregation. A motive for the shooting is still unknown. The suspect was taken to St. Louis University Hospital.
The church will hold a prayer vigil at 6 p.m. at Metro Community Church in Edwardsville, Illinois, about six miles north of Maryville. First Baptist Church has around 1,000 members.
In the mean time, this church shooting comes on the heals of Jim Adkisson, a 58-year-old man, killing two people in a Knoxville, Tennessee, church during a children's play in July. Two people were killed and six wounded in that Tennessee Valley Unitarian Shooting. Adkisson pleaded guilty and faces life in prison without parole.
If our country's freedoms are to endure, these unfortunate tragedies can not be empowered to alter our exercise of the right to assemble and our right to worship.
Update 3-10-09: 27-year-old Terry Sedlacek has been charged with murder for the shooting death at the First Baptist Church in Maryville. According to the media, Selacek marked the day as "death day" in a planner. A motive for the killing remains to be seen.