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Church shooting: A hymn, then chaos and prayer as pastor dies

By David Simpson, CNN
updated 5:07 AM EDT, Mon September 30, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pastor's daughter says suspect attended church four years ago
  • Pastor Ronald J. Harris was singing when gunman entered
  • Chaos in sanctuary: "People were screaming. They were under the pews."
  • Daughter: "He's going to be proud of us one day."

(CNN) -- Talisha Harris had seen Woodrow Karey at the Louisiana church where her father preached, but not for about four years.

Until Friday night.

Harris told CNN affiliate KPLC-TV that Karey entered the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center in Lake Charles as she was leading the 65 people in the sanctuary in the singing of "Our God is a Great God."

Her father, pastor Ronald Harris, had just joined her.

Karey fired his shotgun almost immediately, hitting a plant, Talisha Harris said. The second shotgun blast struck Ronald Harris in the back.

Then Karey approached the fallen pastor, fired once more and "stood there to watch him take his last breath."

The gunman ran, leaving a church in chaos.

"People were screaming. They were under the pews," Talisha Harris said.

Two other clergymen "immediately started praying," and other people applied pressure to the pastor's wounds.

But Ronald Harris died.

A short time later, the 53-year-old Karey called 911 and said he wanted to surrender. He was charged with second-degree murder and jailed under a $1 million bond.

Authorities said Karey had no known criminal history.

"It appears as though this investigation involves issues that occurred at the church," Calcasieu Parish Chief Deputy Stitch Guillory said on CNN's "New Day Sunday."

Talisha Harris said the church had helped Karey. She cannot imagine his motive.

"That's the only question I would really want to ask him," she said. "Just why?"

She said her father "had a big heart. He loved everybody, wanted to always help."

Talisha Harris said she and her mother, who also witnessed the shooting, will remain church members.

She said she will rely on the faith she learned from her parents.

"They always stood on the word of God. They never wavered, they never doubted God. It was like they had strong faith that everything is going to be OK," she said.

"Everything he taught us -- he's going to be proud of us one day," she said. "We're going to make it."

CNN's Rick Martin and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.

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