Horror erupted at a senior home in Chicago, Illinois, in the wee hours on Monday when Allen Smith, 80, a retired Baptist minister and Yale Divinity School graduate was allegedly shot dead by a wheelchair bound, 67-year-old pastor during an argument over the Bible.
The Chicago Tribune said Smith and his alleged killer, Ted Merchant, a resident of the community who also ran a church at the senior home known as the Senior Suites of Rainbow Beach, were on the back patio of the property having their regular talk about Bible passages when he pull a gun and shot Smith dead.
Merchant fled the scene in his motorized wheelchair but was arrested three blocks away at about 1:05 p.m., according to the Tribune. He was later charged with first-degree murder and was set to appear in bond court on Wednesday. Police say the shooting was caught on camera.
The Christian Post contacted the Chicago Police Department for further details on why Smith was shot dead but a media representative was not available to respond to questions.
The history page of the Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church in Hamden, Connecticut, says the church was started by Smith in 1962 after previously serving in ministry in New York City.
"CTBC held its first service of worship on July 8, 1962. On Aug. 5, 1962, the newly formed worship group received 54 persons as its first members. The new church congregation was organized under the pastoral leadership of the Rev. Allen H. Smith, a graduate of Yale Divinity School. Smith had just completed a year of service as associate minister of the St. Albans Congregational Church, Jamaica, New York," the church said.
Calls made to the church went unanswered but a post on the church's Facebook page said a memorial service would be held in Smith's honor at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
"Sad I won't be able to make it there. But I will be with those in spirit. Interestingly enough, it was 48 years ago today on that property that Rev. Smith joined my parents together in holy matrimony. He will be deeply missed," wrote Michelle Wright in response to the announcement.
Wilfred Sealy added, "Very sad for a man of God to be taken away from us in this manner. We have to continue to pray day by day."
Residents of the senior home also told the Tribune that Smith was recently retired from the First Baptist Church in East Chicago and had moved into the assisted living center about a year ago.
Merchant, who had been living at the center for about six years, ran a ministry in the community room at the center called Straight Gate, according to residents, and he would frequently debate religion with Smith on the back patio where the retired minister died.
"They'd be out there all the time," Dorothy Hull, 76, a retired auditor for the Bank of America in Chicago, told the Tribune. "They'd talk about Bible passages and ideas about God. They always had little arguments going on about things like that."
But Hull never thought Merchant would kill Smith.
"It was very surprising," she said. "I just can't get over it because he had a church in the community room every Sunday morning. He was retired, too, but he had this church going on. I just couldn't believe he did that."
She described Smith as a very nice man who was never married and had no children.
"He was a very nice person, very outgoing, very friendly,'' Hull said. "He would do things for you, like go to the store or whatever."
Smith was counted among the at least 13 people killed and 52 others wounded in Chicago shootings over the Labor Day weekend, according to ABC 7.
USA Today reports that over 500 homocides have been committed this year in Chicago, putting America's third-largest city on track to reach a murder rate it hasn't seen since the drug wars of the 1990s.