I am sure the day started out about as normal as any other Sunday morning with the exception of today starting Daylight Savings Time for the congregation at the First Baptist Church in Illinois. Losing an hour of sleep isn’t exactly what I would call a good enough excuse to go to a church and in front of the entire congregation open fire on the pastor as he stands in front of everyone.

This morning as Reverend Fred Winters of the First Baptist Church in Maryville Illinois was delivering his sermon shortly after 8 am when a man approached him coming down the aisle. Apparently he spoke briefly with the Reverend and then pulled out a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol and started shooting. He shot until the pistol jammed.

The first shot hit the Reverend’s Bible which caused confetti like spray into the air. The people in the church thought this was a part of some sort of skit being acted out to go with today’s sermon. When they realized this was no acting two men tackled the gunman to the ground. The gunman grabbed his 4 inch knife and ended up cutting each of the guys and also he cut himself as they wrestled with him. He ended up with a pretty serious injury to his neck from the knife. One of the men received wounds to his lower back. They managed to hold him down until the police finally got there.

The church had about 150 people there but no one seems to recognize the gunman and no one knows what the man was saying to the Reverend before shooting him. Although the service was not videotaped there is an audio version that the police plan to listen to so they can see if they can figure out what made the man do this.

It is not known if Reverend Winters knew the gunman himself. Winters was married and had two children. He had been in the church for 22 years. They described the gunman as a 27 year old from nearby Troy, but because of possible pending charges his name wasn’t released.

The gunman and the 39 year old man, Terry Bullard that helped tackle the gunman were     brought into surgery and have been listed in serious condition. The third man, Keith Milton, was treated and released.

Larry Gulledge, the mayor of Maryville said, “Things like this just don’t happen in Maryville. We’ve lost one the pillars of our community, one of our leaders.”

Last month there was a disaster in front of a cross inside the televangelist, Robert H. Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California where a man shot and killed himself. Back in November just as the Sunday service let out a gunman killed his estranged wife in a New Jersey church vestibule.

In July a shooting rampage occurred at the Tennessee Valley United Unitarian Church in Knoxville Tennessee which killed 2 people and wounded six others. A man who said he was a truck driver out of work plead guilty to the rampage and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Police say he had targeted the church because of his liberal leanings.

This is so sad. My prayers and my deepest condolences go out to the Reverend’s family on their loss.

Jan Barrett

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