'No One Can Fathom a Motive': Pastor Shot During Service

Shooting at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., kills Pastor Fred Winters.

March 8, 2009, 1:05 PM

March 8, 2009— -- Police are still searching for a motive in a shooting during a morning church service outside St. Louis that left one person dead -- the church's pastor -- and several others wounded.

The Rev. Fred Winters was at the pulpit at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., at 8:15 a.m. local time when a man wearing dark clothing approached the pulpit, exchanged words with the pastor and then fired four shots, Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent said at a news conference late today.

"It was something spoken, but the people closest to them at the time couldn't say what that was," Trent said. "The pastor may have recognized him ... but we're not sure about that at all."

The first shot hit the pastor's Bible.

"It hit the very top of the Bible and exploded on top of the Bible and turned into what many thought was confetti," Trent said. "In fact, some thought it was some type of skit or some type of program at the time."

One of the shots from the gunman's .45 caliber pistol hit Winters in the chest, killing him, before his gun jammed, said Trooper Ralph Timmins of the Illinois State Police, which is handling the investigation.

After his gun jammed, the shooter injured himself with a knife and subsequently was restrained by parishioners, Timmins said in a "preliminary release" left on his office voicemail recording. Approximately 150 people were in the church at the time, and Trent said video recordings of the service may provide clues as to what triggered the shooting.

Two parishioners who "tackled" the shooter received "non-life-threatening" injuries from the knife, Timmins said.

Winters was "pronounced [dead] at the hospital for a single gunshot wound to the chest," Timmins said.

Jeremy Kohler, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, told ABC News Radio that there's "a lot of sadness and disbelief out there" -- and members of the community are trying to figure out how it could have happened.

"No one can even fathom a motive for the shooting," Kohler said. "No one really seems to recognize [the shooter] as being a member of the church."

Suspect in Church Shooting Remains Hospitalized

Members of the congregation who spoke to the Post-Dispatch outside the church and the local hospital were moved to tears.

"I'm in shock," Lindsay Osborne, 18, told the paper.

A spokeswoman for Anderson Hospital in Maryville told ABC News it initially received victims of the shooting.

"We received three victims from the church shooting," spokeswoman Natalie Head said. "Two of those victims were transferred from our facility. We are not a trauma facility, so we were transferring them to a higher acuity hospital in St. Louis. And one of those victims was dead on arrival."

Laura Keller, the director of media relations at St. Louis University Hospital, told ABC News that the hospital -- a level-one trauma center -- received two victims from the shooting, including the shooter, who was in surgery Sunday afternoon and remains hospitalized.

Keller said the second victim, 39-year-old Terry Bullard, was out of surgery and in serious condition.

She could not confirm if Bullard, who sustained stab wounds, was one of the churchgoers who first tackled the shooter.

Authorities said the shooter, who received very serious injuries, is a 27-year-old with no prior criminal record. His identity will not be released until he is criminally charged.

A statement posted on the First Baptist Church's Web site said, "Please pray for Dr. Winter's family, our two brave members who were injured when they stopped the assailant, for the assailant himself and his family, and for our church members as they deal with this tragic loss. ... To those who believe in the power of prayer, we covet your prayers right now."

Pastor's Death 'a Terrible Tragedy'

Nate Adams, the executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, where Winters was a former president, released a statement asking for people to pray for the community.

"Our great God is not surprised by this, or anything," Adams said. "That He allows evil and free will to have their way in tragedies like this is a mystery in many ways. But we know we can trust Him no matter what, and draw close to Him in any circumstances. Let's draw closer to Him and to one another during this terrible tragedy, and renew our faith and obedience to His purposes for however many days we have remaining to serve Him."

According to the church Web site, Winters had been the senior pastor since 1987. He was married and the father of two daughters.

A prayer service was held Sunday at 6 p.m. local time at Metro Community Chuch in nearby Edwardsville, Ill.

"People cannot stop living their lives," the Rev. Mark Jones, the church's worship minister, told reporters, according to the Post-Dispatch. "They cannot be paralyzed with fear."

ABC News' Jason Volack and Erin Donovan contributed to this report.

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