Fatal shooting of 81-year-old pastor under investigation, police say

Donald Woolridge
The late Donald Woolridge, 81, was pastor of Union Baptist Church in Florence, Arizona. |

Despite some reports suggesting he might have been killed in self-defense, the Topeka Police Department in Kansas said they are still investigating the fatal shooting of 81-year-old Arizona Pastor Donald Woolridge during a recent visit with his family.

The Topeka Police Department said that just after 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, officers were called to the 3300 block of SE Fremont St. in response to a shooting. When they arrived, Woolridge, who leads Union Baptist Church in Florence, Arizona, was found dead at the scene.

Police took one person into custody for questioning but that person was released. No other suspects were reported. Investigators reportedly told local media that self-defense was being considered in the pastor's death.

The Pinal Central Newspaper reported that Woolridge had made frequent trips to Topeka to help a family member who was experiencing legal problems.

When asked about the report that Woolridge might have been killed in self-defense, Detective Jesse Sherer of the Topeka Police Department told The Christian Post that the case remained an ongoing investigation.

“What I can tell you is it’s an ongoing investigation,” Sherer told CP.  “I’ve done two search warrants this morning. I am still seeking evidence in the case. I can’t tell you what the final outcome is going to be because I don’t have all my information yet.”

Steven Salazar, one of Woolridge’s neighbors in Arizona, told AZ Family that the pastor’s killing was “senseless.”

“It shouldn’t have happened. He was such a nice man,” Salazar said.

The pastor’s wife, Vallarie, told the news outlet that she did not expect to get a call about her husband’s death after he left their home in Arizona to go visit family in Kansas.

“If somebody is sick and you’re expecting them to go, you kind of prepare for it,” Vallarie Woolridge said, recalling how she learned that her husband of more than 40 years had died.

“It’s never easy, but for it to be so sudden and happen like that, it’s very different,” she told the CBS News affiliate. “He was just a person who loved people, he loved God first, and that’s the kind of heart God gave him. To be a helper of people, that’s what he did,” she added. 

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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