Usually, when we talk about a shooting in a Texas church, there’s something significant. Sutherland Springs is one side of the spectrum. On the other is White Settlement. In one, a maniac was able to massacre pretty much the entire church. In the other, the shooter was killed by church security before he could do nearly as much as he might have liked.
Somewhere in the middle, we have a shooting in Winona, Texas.
A 21-year-old man who hid from police in an East Texas church was charged with first-degree murder and felony assault in a shooting that left the pastor dead and two other people injured Sunday, a local sheriff said.
Authorities had been using dogs and drones to search for the man late Saturday in woods near Winona following a car chase, and the pastor of the nearby Starrville Methodist Church discovered him hiding in a church bathroom Sunday morning, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said at a news conference.
Smith said police were initially pursuing the man because he was suspected of brandishing a shotgun through the sunroof of a Volkswagen Jetta he was driving Saturday. Authorities believe the suspect, identified as 21-year-old Mytrez Deunte Woolen of Marshall, Texas, broke into the church after police had left the area around 2 a.m. Sunday.
Pastor Mark Allen McWilliams, 62, drew a gun and ordered Woolen to stop, Smith said, but Woolen grabbed the weapon and began shooting with it. McWilliams was killed, a second person was injured by gunfire and another was hurt in a fall.
Woolen then stole the pastor’s vehicle and fled east before being arrested by deputies in nearby Harrison County, Smith said. He said Woolen was hospitalized Sunday afternoon with gunshot wounds to his hand, but that it’s unclear when he was shot.
For anti-gunners, this will likely be taken as evidence that having a firearm is a bad idea. After all, they’d argue, if McWilliams hadn’t had a firearm then Woolen wouldn’t have taken it.
However, it’s important to note that these kinds of stories actually appear to be pretty rare. I see a lot of gun stories each and every day, including a lot that revolve around some form of violent crime, and remarkably few involve the criminal taking the good guy’s gun. It’s rare and unfortunate when it happens, but still rare as hell.
No, there’s another takeaway from this story, something we all should understand, though we still only have the barest sketch of the details.
First, just why did McWilliams draw? A church isn’t a home, so there’s less reasonable suspicion the individual intends to harm anyone. Did McWilliams escalate the situation? Or, was there some degree of threat that warranted a weapon being presented? If Woolen wanted to run, there was really no reason not to let him. Just get a good description for the police and let him bolt.
Still, McWilliams drew his weapon, but apparently Woolen was close enough to grab the weapon. We all need to understand that guns aren’t a magic talisman that keeps you safe. You need to use proper tactics. That includes distance between you and the bad guy. McWilliams either didn’t have enough or he was reluctant to shoot and allowed Woolen to get close. Or both.
Neither of those is ideal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this was McWilliams’ fault. We don’t have nearly enough information, but even if he drew in a situation when he shouldn’t have, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was his fault. I’m just saying there are lessons we all can take from this. It’s just a shame that it happened at all.