(Screengrab from CNN)
The daughter of a Southwest Louisiana pastor, who was shot to death during a revival service before 60 church members including his wife, says if her father had a chance to speak to his killer, he would say, "I forgive you and I love you." The shooter's motive remains a mystery.
Pastor Ronald J. Harris Sr. of Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center in Lake Charles, La., was preaching to about 60 people, including his wife and daughter, on Friday night when Woodrow Karey Jr., a former deacon at the church, shot him twice, according to the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office.
Pastor's daughter, Talisha Harris, told The Associated Press the family cannot figure out why Karey, a member of the church until four years ago, killed her father. "One question I do want to ask him is why. My dad had a big heart. He'd help anybody," she said.
Harris said her father would not only tell his killer that he had forgiven him but would also say, "Come to church. And let God visit (your) mind."
She recalled that her father always took out time for his own children, and treated many other children the same way. "The people in our church, he'd treat them as if they were family," she said.
Karey, who used a .22-caliber pistol but has no known history of crime or mental illness, surrendered minutes after the shooting. He has been booked on a second-degree murder charge.
The suspect stormed the church before the pastor began preaching, Harris said. Harris Sr. was singing along with a worship team comprising five church members when suddenly a volunteer came running in, shouting, "He got a gun! He got a gun! He got a gun!"
"He [the suspect] came in down the middle aisle. He shot [unsuccessfully] at my daddy. ... My daddy ran. He shot him in the back. When he fell, he came closer and shot him again," Harris recalled. The gunman then ran out of the church using a side door.
Harris Sr. had been in the ministry for over two decades. He had told his daughter he could sense the calling for God's ministry while he was still a child. His favorite Bible passage was "I can do all things through Christ," Harris said.
A candlelight service will be held Tuesday evening at Tabernacle of Praise Worship, and a memorial service on Thursday at True Light Baptist Church in Lake Charles.