MARYVILLE, Ill. – A pastor shot and killed during his Sunday sermon deflected the first of the gunman’s four rounds with a Bible, sending a confetti-like spray of paper into the air in a horrifying scene that congregants initially thought was a skit, police said.
The gunman strode down the aisle of the sprawling First Baptist Church shortly after 8 a.m. and briefly spoke with the Rev. Fred Winters, then pulled out a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol and began firing until it jammed, Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent said.
Churchgoers wrestled the gunman to the ground as he waved a knife, slashing himself and two other people, Trent said.
Two congregants tackled the gunman as he pulled the 4-inch knife, and all three were stabbed, police said. The gunman suffered “a pretty serious wound to the neck” while one congregant had lower back wounds, Trent said.
Congregants knocked the gunman between sets of pews, then held him down until police arrived.
Police described the gunman as a 27-year-old from nearby Troy but would not release his name pending possible charges.
Trent said investigators found no immediate evidence of a criminal background for the suspect. He said police were investigating whether a red Jeep parked outside the church belonged to the man.