Authorities in Harris County, Texas are investigating after a man was fatally shot in a church parking lot on Sunday morning after allegedly issuing a vague threat against the pastor of Lake Houston Methodist Church.
According to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, the situation unfolded before services began on Sunday when the individual approached a churchgoer and referenced the pastor, saying “today is the day.” The encounter unnerved the church patron enough that they called 911, but by the time a deputy arrived, the man had already left the area.
A short time later, officials said a church member called a Texas EquuSearch member to help with the situation. When the EquuSearch member showed up, the man who had reportedly been making the threats had returned and was driving around the church parking lot.
Gonzalez said the EquuSearch member parked about 20 yards away from the man and at some point, the man started running towards the EquuSearch member, who fired a rifle at him. The man was shot twice and pronounced dead at the scene.
Authorities said the man who charged the shooter appeared to have a “vape” in his hand.
Tim Miller, Texas EquuSearch founder, said the shooter was a longtime member of his team. He said the shooter was cooperating with investigators.
He is said to have allegedly shoved a sword through a trailer.
It is reported that law enforcement found psychotropic medications in his truck that was at the scene.
About 50 to 70 people were inside the church during the shooting, but deputies said there were no other injuries.
Tim Miller, with Texas EquuSearch, said he was on the phone with the worker when the shooting happened. Miller said the suspected shooter called him because he had concerns about the suspicious man.
“He’s a great member. He’s dedicated. He’s done wonderful work. He’s always there for people out there with missing loved ones,” Miller said. “He was here for the protection of the people at the church.”
I don’t think it’s possible to determine whether this will be ruled a justifiable use of force based on the limited amount of information that’s been publicly released, but it doesn’t sound like any arrests were made at the scene. Instead, the EquuSearch member was “detained” by police for questioning.
A lot will depend on the specific behavior of the suspicious individual who was shot and killed. Were church officials or the armed citizen aware of his arrest the previous day? Did he articulate any threat of violent behavior against the pastor or church members? The big question is going to be whether the armed citizen had a reasonable belief that the man posed an immediate threat of danger to himself or the congregation.
Even if the sheriff’s investigators decline to arrest the armed citizen, the case will be referred to a grand jury in Harris County for further consideration. If that happens it could be some time before we learn whether or not the grand jury will issue any indictments. Back in January of this year an armed customer shot and killed a robber in a Harris County taco shop, and though it’s been almost a year we’re still waiting to learn what a grand jury will do with that case. Hopefully, it won’t take nearly as long to learn more about what happened on Sunday morning outside of Lake Houston Methodist Church, and we’ll report any updates here as they become available.