A pastor was killed and two others were injured in a shooting at a Texas church on Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
The shooting occurred Sunday morning at Starrville Methodist Church in Starrville, about 100 miles east of Dallas. The suspect, who is in custody, was allegedly fleeing police after an incident Saturday night and had snuck into the church to hide, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said.
A pastor at Starrville Methodist Church found the man hiding in a bathroom around 9:21 a.m. when he, his wife and several others entered the church Sunday morning. The suspect left but returned to the church amid an early morning manhunt by authorities.
“He starts coming toward the front door, then he turns around and lunges at the pastor and was able to disarm the pastor, it appears at this time,” Smith said. “He used … the pastor’s firearm is the one he used. The pastor is deceased at this time.”
Another person was being treated for a gunshot wound and their condition was unknown, Smith said. Someone was also being treated related to a fall during the incident.
The suspect was found after he allegedly stole the pastor’s vehicle to flee the church and was caught in Harrison County, Smith said. He had a gunshot wound on his hand, though it was unclear when he was shot.
Starrville Methodist Church in Starrville, Texas.Google Maps
Abbott sent his condolences to the victims and their families Sunday in his statement, which did not identify the pastor or the suspect.
“The State of Texas is working closely with first responders and local officials to ensure that justice is served and that the Starrville community has the resources it needs during this time,” Abbott said.
Smith said the incident is being investigated as a capital murder case, but the shooting does not appear to have been motivated by anti-religious sentiment.
“This is a crime of opportunity for this man, suspect,” Smith said. “The church just happened to be here. It could have been one of these houses he went inside, but he knew people were there. … I believe he probably just got there to seek shelter.”
The sheriff did not provide details as to why the suspect was being sought Saturday, but he said authorities were working on obtaining the arrest warrant for the suspect.
Smith did not release the name of the suspect or any other victims in the shooting.
Doha Madani is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
Ben Kesslen is a reporter for NBC News.