Jamie Steele, a Southern Baptist pastor from North Carolina who allegedly crashed his car while driving under the influence then threatened to harm himself during an armed standoff with local police, has been place on leave by his church.
In a statement released last Friday on Facebook, East Taylorsville Baptist Church acknowledged the Jan. 24 incident involving their 53-year-old senior pastor which caused local schools to go into lockdown, WCNC Charlotte reported.
“We are aware of the events that occurred on January 24 in downtown Taylorsville that involved our Senior Pastor Jamie Steele,” the church began in their statement.
“Our deacon board has met several times and is actively involved in monitoring this situation. At this point, Pastor Steele has been placed on a leave of absence until we have all information.”
A police report cited by the Hickory Record said police noticed the pastor’s white Toyota Tacoma truck was traveling west along West Main Avenue shortly before 1 p.m. on Jan. 24. The truck was noticed veering to the left, crossing a double-yellow line before it struck four utility poles near the intersection of West Main Avenue and Seventh Street SW.
Two of the utility poles broke, leaving powerlines dangling across the road, forcing police to shut it down. Officers told WCNC that after noticing that Steele appeared impaired, they called in EMS workers from Alexander County to assess him after the crash. When the workers arrived at the scene and tried checking him for injuries, the pastor allegedly began waving a gun around which caused police to evacuate the area and call for backup.
Police described the gun as a semiautomatic pistol, according to the Hickory Record.
“While I was looking at the power lines down, I noticed several first responders and the witnesses running away from the vehicle involved in the accident,” Taylorsville Police Lt. Kevin Elder said in a release cited by the Hickory Record. “I could hear (Alexander County Sheriff’s Deputy) Caudle yelling on the radio; however, I could not make out what he was saying. I spoke with Adrian Foster who came up to me and he stated that the driver had just pulled out a gun and began to point it at the people around and put the gun to his head.”
Steele reportedly threatened to harm himself and fired one shot from inside the crashed truck, but no one was hurt. It took about one hour before the pastor surrendered to police and another six hours before the road was cleared.
The pastor was charged with driving while impaired, reckless driving with wanton disregard, discharging a firearm in city limits, open container of alcohol, damage to property, carrying a concealed weapon, going armed to the terror of the public, driving left of center, exceeding safe speed and unsafe passing.
East Taylorsville Baptist Church did not immediately respond when contacted by The Christian Post on Thursday.
“We are also aware that, as of February 2, numerous charges have been filed against Pastor Steele by the Taylorsville Police Department. All questions related to the charges should be directed to the Taylorsville Police Department,” the church noted in their statement on Friday. “Our church is continuing to pray for our pastor and his family during this time.”