FOREST HILL, Texas (AP) — The Rev. Danny Kirk Sr. greeted everyone walking into his Texas church on Sundays with a big hug and an “I love you.” His weekdays were spent visiting folks in the hospital or mowing lawns and doing household repairs for members in need.
Parishioners, who described Kirk as a dedicated minister with a bubbly personality and a knack for remembering the names of his church’s 800 members, are now looking for answers following his violent death.
Police in the Fort Worth suburb of Forest Hill said Kirk was killed Monday by a man who rammed a car into a wall at his Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church, then chased Kirk and fatally beat him with an electric guitar.
Investigators said they don’t know the motive or if Kirk knew his attacker, who police subdued by using a Taser but who died after being taken into custody. His name hasn’t been released.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the church, where crime-scene tape was wrapped around a small statue of Jesus near the wrecked car. Some hugged each other and cried, while others shared memories of Kirk.
“He really was concerned about our souls,” Montoya McNeil, a church member for eight years, said as she wiped away tears. “You looked forward to being here. … I’m not asking God why, because I know where he (Kirk) is, but we won’t get those big bear hugs and those great sermons anymore.”
Claudie Loftin, an associate minister, called Kirk a hands-on pastor who “didn’t run around wearing a suit.
“He would wear jeans or a sweatsuit because he said he never knew how he would be needed to help, and that’s what a pastor does. He was a man of integrity.”
Forest Hill Police Chief Dan Dennis said the suspect drove his car into a church wall before noon Monday, apparently on purpose. The suspect got out of the car and began to attack the pastor in the parking lot before chasing him into the church, while the secretary hid and called 911, Dennis said.
Police arrived to find the suspect assaulting Kirk with an electric guitar from inside the church, Dennis said. An officer used a Taser on the suspect, handcuffed him and put him in the back of a patrol car.
By then, Kirk had died, Dennis said. A maintenance worker who tried to help Kirk was injured and taken to an area hospital. His condition was unknown.
Dennis said the suspect was found unresponsive shortly after being detained and was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Kirk fought back during the attack, Dennis said, but it’s unclear if that played any role in the suspect’s death. An autopsy was being performed on the suspect to determine the cause of death.
Dennis said he didn’t know if the suspect knew Kirk, attended the church or why he might have attacked the pastor.
Former Forest Hill Mayor James Gosey said Kirk started the church in 1995 in a strip mall before building the red-brick church.
Kirk was also an unofficial volunteer chaplain who occasionally counseled members of a local high school football team, Fort Worth school district spokesman Clint Bond said.
Loftin, the associate minister, said that church members were grieving but would recover from the loss “with the help of God.”