The shooting took place just after 8 a.m. Sunday morning in the Illinois church. The suspect exchanged words with the pastor before firing a .45-caliber handgun. The pastor was fire three times. Winters was struck in the heart and his neck.
At first those attending the service thought the Pastor was involved in a skit.
“We thought it was part of a drama skit … when he shot, what you saw was confetti,” said congregant Linda Cunningham, whose husband is a minister of adult education at the church. “We just sat there waiting for what comes next, not realizing that he had wounded the pastor.”
There were about 150 members at the morning service. No one seemed to know who the gunman was.
Two of the parishioners that helped subdue the gunman were injured in the struggle.
It is not clear if the suspect knew Pastor Winters according to Illinois State Trooper Master Trooper Ralph Timmins.
“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.
Pastor Winters was taken to Anderson Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The gunman was taken to a local hospital and then flown to hospital in Saint Louis. He is listed in serious condition.
Two people who were injured at the church were flown to a different hospital according to Anderson Hospital spokesperson Natalie Head.
Winters had lead First Baptist for almost 22 years. He was the father of two and the former president of the Illinois Baptist State Association and an adjunct professor for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. First Baptist has a congregation of about 1,500 members. Winters is credited for building the size of his flock from just 30 members.
USA Today quoted Jeff Ross, a lay minister at the First Baptist Church from a phone interview:
“He built this church in a cornfield,” Ross said of Winters, “and now houses are filling in around us.”
Winters, he said, “was on fire for the Lord. He only worried about people who were lost.”
Maryville is 20 miles northeast of Saint Louis.
After being shot Winter’s made it halfway down a side aisle of the church before he collapsed.
The gunman is a 27-year-old from nearby Troy but would not release his name pending possible charges.
“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,” said Illinois State Police Master Trooper Ralph Timmins.
Two church members wrestled the gunman to the ground before he stabbed himself in the neck. The church members were both wounded in the process.
Both the gunman and 39-year-old congregant Terry Bullard are listed in serious condition at St. Louis University Hospital. They both had surgery for their wounds. Bullard had been stabbed in the lower back.
The other church member, Keith Melton, was treated and released from Gateway Regional Medical Center.