A Christian congregation in Forest Hill, a suburb of Forth Worth, N. Texas, was thrown into confusion and mourning after a man rammed his car into the church wall, caught up with the pastor, Danny Kirk, and clubbed him to death with an electric guitar.
According to Dallas News, police authorities say the Rev. Danny Kirk, 53, founding pastor of Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church, was beaten to death around 11:12 a.m. in the music room of his church in the southeast side suburb of Fort Worth.
Police say they are still investigating the motive for the brutal and fatal attack.
According to MyFoxdfw, two church members were present during the attack: a male janitor and a female church secretary.The secretary ran into her office, locked herself in and called 911.
MyFoxdfw reports that according to witnesses, the attacker smashed a sedan into the church building. The Forest Hill Police Chief Dan Dennis said Pastor Danny Kirk was first attacked in the parking lot, chased into the church through a side door and beaten to death with an electric guitar in the music room of the church near the back classrooms. The janitor who tried to rescue the pastor was injured. Dallas News reports the janitor, 59-year-old John Whitaker, was treated for a broken jaw.
According to MyFoxdfw, the church secretary locked herself up in her office and called 911. She called 911, crying frantically:
"My pastor's bleeding, he's been attacked... I'm not going out there. I need real help fast. Send policeman. I do need an ambulance also."
"Does your pastor know him?" the dispatcher asked.
"I have no idea."Dallas News reports the conversation between Caller and Dispatcher went:
Caller: “I think someone’s trying to break in … it was like a loud crash … I need an ambulance also. My pastor’s bleeding. He’s been attacked.”
Operator: “So your pastor confronted him?”
Caller: “They’re trying to fight him. They’re going in and out [of the church] like they’re chasing them. … My pastor and the custodian are chasing him … it looks like he drove his car into our building.”
(You may listen to an audio recording of the 911 calls made during the attack here.)
Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church
Police say when they arrived at the scene, they found the attacker hitting Kirk with an electric guitar. Officers had to use a Taser to subdue him, but Pastor Kirk had died.
The police handcuffed the attacker, took him into a squad car. He became unresponsive shortly after. He reportedly died in the patrol car, en route to the John Peter Smith Hospital where he was confirmed dead.
According to Dallas News, a couple, Jimmy and Jennifer Henderson, and Christopher Henderson, Jimmy's brother, identified the attacker as their cousin, Derrick Birdow, 33. Police say Birdow was not a member of the church but they believe his children were.
When Birdow's cousin, Deeverett Wingham, saw the car Birdow crashed into the church wall, he said: “I know — I see the car and everything, but it hasn't hit me yet."
Christopher Henderson said his cousin Birdow, had been acting strangely lately, claiming some people were trying to kill him.
Henderson reportedly said: “He’s been having some issues, and he hasn't been himself. This past week, he’s been going through some stuff.”
According to Henderson, Birdow had come into possession of some drugs "about a week ago that made him go crazy.”
Hendersen said: “He’s a happy dude. I’m sorry for the church people, but I wouldn't have expected this out of him at all. I know it’s a loss for you, but it’s a big loss for us, too.”
According to Dallas News, Tarrant County records show that in 2004, Birdow was jailed five years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was also convicted for "possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor family violence and driving while intoxicated."
NBCdfw reports there were surveillance cameras in and around the church building and that police will be looking at the footage as they investigate the incident.
Church members mourn
Church members were thrown into mourning after the incident with hundreds gathering outside the church and around the crime scene.
Mourning church members described Kirk as a cheerful person who knew the names of every member of his congregation. According to a church member, Montoya McNeil, "He really was concerned about our souls.You looked forward to being here... I'm not asking God why, because I know where he is, but we won't get those big bear hugs and those great sermons anymore."
Kirk was a big and strong man who stood well over 6 feet tall and some of his church members expressed disbelief that a man his size and strength could simply have been beaten to death, The Star-Telegram reports.
He was a star football player at Marlin High School, Waco. He also played football at Texas A&M-Commerce. He made it to the Seattle Seahawks' training camp in the early 1980s, The Star-Telegram reports.
NBCdfw.com reports his son Danny Kirk Jr., said: "My dad [is the] best guy ever. I mean, anything I needed, anything the church needed, he was going to do. [He was the] best guy ever on this side of heaven, I promise you that much."
Charles Lewis, manager of LL&L Enterprises in Wilmer, a bus transportation service, who played football with Kirk at school, said: "Danny is well-known all around. He had a great reputation. You’re not going to find anybody to say anything bad about Danny Kirk."
Danny Kirk became a minister in the 1980s, and started the Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church in 1995. According to the Daily Mail, he started the congregation that included his sister Lenell Kirk Hall, in a strip mall before he built a red-brick church in the 7300 block of Forest Hill Drive to accommodate his fast growing congregation. His church maintains an active community outreach arm with a food pantry, a clothing ministry and a scholarship program.
An associate minister of the church, Reginald Wilson, said: "Our hearts are heavy right now."