This morning I heard from a man who was best friends with the late Fred Winters. As you by now have heard, Pastor Fred Winters was shot and killed this past Sunday during the early worship service of First Baptist Church of Maryville, Illinois. Reports are circulating around the Internet about what allegedly happened, but Fred's good friend shared with me of his conversations with the people involved, including the person who wrestled with the gunman and was wounded himself by a knife attack. Some of what is being circulated by news sources, according to Fred's friend, is completely untrue, including that Fred was running from the gunman and he cried out "help me" as if in panic.
In speaking on Tuesday with the man that wrestled with the gunman, Fred's close friend discovered the man considers Pastor Fred a true hero. According to this church member, Pastor Fred, instead of running away from the gunamn after the first shot shredded his Bible, he actually went toward the gunman. It was in the ensuing struggle that Pastor Fred was shot through the heart.
If one were to look at the stage and FBC Maryville, it is easily seen that the steps are at the sides of the big stage. Pastor Fred could have retreated backwards, and he may have saved his own life. But Fred went to the side of the stage toward the steps and then down toward the gunmen who concurrently moved toward Fred. The church member who sought to intervene and was wounded himself, had the best view of what was occurring. According to this churchman, as he ran forward to help subdue the shoooter, he saw Pastor Fred had already come off the stage and had himself grabbed the gunman's hands and was locked in a battle for the gun. Fred is reported to have yelled "somebody help me," but it was not a plea for his life as some are reporting, but rather "somebody help me get this guy under control."
The man that came to Fred's aid thinks that because Fred's hands were already on the gun, the shell of the shot that killed Fred did not dislodgle cleanly. Whatever the case, the gunman turned to shoot this other man after Fred went down. That is when the gun jammed and many lives were saved. The guy had enough rounds to kill alot of people. After attempting to fire the gun at least twice, the gunman drew a knife and began to attack the man who had come to assist the Pastor. Others eventually arrived to help wrestle the gunman to the ground. Contrary to media reports, the eyewitnesses give an accounting that gives evidence of a Shepherd willing to lay his life down for his sheep. His actions should give us all pause as we consider what we would do on behalf of our church family if found in a similar situation.
At the age of 45 Fred accomplished more in his life for the kingdom then most men do in a lifetime. He was a man of discipline, devotion, and focused determination. Fred was intentional about pouring his life into other people's lives. We pray that God will use Fred Winter's story to spur his fellow servants on to more of a fervency in fulfilling their call to ministry.
We encourage all to continue to remember Cindy and the girls. According to Fred's close friend, Fred's family is doing amazingly well. Their strength is a testimony of God's grace. Info about Fred and the funeral tomorrow can be found at the website of First Baptist Church, Maryville, Illinois.
Our prayers are with Cindy, the girls, and all the people of FBC Maryville.
In His Grace,