MARYVILLE — A gunman walked into the First Baptist Church shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday, exchanged words with the Rev. Fred Winters and then pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and began firing.
One of the bullets deflected off Winters' Bible, sending a spray of paper into the air that church members said resembled confetti. Two other shots missed.
But a fourth shot struck Winters, the church's senior pastor, in the chest, fatally wounding him. Winters, 45, managed to run from the pulpit halfway down a side aisle, where he collapsed and lay dying. Parishioners, who at first thought it was some kind of skit or dramatic play, began to run and scream in a horrifying scene, witnesses said.
"I now know what people mean when they say, 'This is so surreal,'" said the Rev. Mark Jones, assistant pastor. "We often have dramatic elements during our services, but this was something that caught everyone off guard."
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Two parishioners then tackled the gunman as he brandished a four-inch knife, and all three suffered stab wounds. The gunman and one victim were flown to St. Louis University Hospital, where both underwent surgery. The other victim was treated at Gateway Regional Medical Center and released.
The gunman, a 27-year-old man from nearby Troy, had no apparent connection to the church or Winters, police and congregation members said. Police did not release the suspect's identity, pending charges.
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