(CNN) — A sheriff says he’s closer to finding the motive behind the fatal shooting of a Louisiana pastor who witnesses say was gunned down by a former deacon as the horrified congregation looked on.
Friday’s shooting may have resulted from allegations of a complicated sexual relationship between the pastor and the deacon’s wife, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said.
“The allegations all stem around a consensual sexual relationship or a non-consensual sexual relationship,” Mancuso told CNN affiliate KPLC.
While cautioning that investigators were still gathering facts, Mancuso briefed reporters Monday on the tale that has shocked many at Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center and had now become national news.
Calcasieu Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested 53-year-old Woodrow Karey, the deacon, and charged him with second-degree murder after he called 911 and told the dispatcher what he had done Friday night.
Witnesses told police that Karey walked into the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center around 8:20 p.m. and shot Pastor Ronald Harris twice — the first time as Karey entered the church and then again at close range after Harris had fallen to the floor.
After the arrest, Karey told authorities that a week earlier he’d found text messages from his wife to the pastor. He believed, Mancuso said, that they were having sex and he confronted his wife. Days after the confrontation, the wife filed a police report accusing the pastor of rape, Mancuso said.
Before the shooting, authorities had not yet investigated Karey’s wife’s claim of rape.
“We had not had an opportunity yet,” Mancuso said. “We always like, before we go to an accuser, we like to get the facts straight before we begin questioning.”
Talisha Harris, the pastor’s daughter, was in the church during the shooting.
She said Karey entered the Lake Charles church as she was leading the 65 people in the sanctuary in the singing of “Our God is a Great God.”
Karey fired his shotgun almost immediately, hitting a plant, Talisha Harris said. The second shotgun blast struck Ronald Harris in the back.
Then, Karey approached the fallen pastor, fired once more and “stood there to watch him take his last breath,” she said.
The gunman ran, leaving a church in chaos.
“People were screaming,” Talisha Harris said. “They were under the pews.”
Armed in church
While rare, church violence is not unheard of.
Shreveport, Louisiana, pastor Ed Gonzalez said he was once approached by someone in his office with apparently violent intent, CNN affiliate KSLA reported.
“He walked in my office and told me God told him to take me out,” the station quoted Gonzalez as saying.
The man eventually backed off, but the experience led Gonzalez to conclude the churches are easy targets. He now carries a weapon, as do several other members of his church.
“Pastors need to awake and realize that we live in a world of turmoil, hatred and bitterness, so they have to do something to protect those sheep,” he told KSLA. “As long as there is sin on this earth we’re going to have violence.”