Keith Melton is one of two churchgoers who tackled a man charged with killing pastor Fred Winters while he was preaching at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois, on Sunday.
Investigators have charged Terry J. Sedlacek, 27, with first-degree murder in the killing. Sedlacek was also charged with two counts of aggravated battery related to the stabbing of Melton and another parishioner, Terry Bullard. CNN’s Kiran Chetry spoke with Melton on Tuesday’s “American Morning” about the shooting and how he is dealing with the death of his pastor. Kiran Chetry: First of all, how are you doing Keith Melton: Well, thank you, Kiran. All things considered, I think I’m holding up pretty well. I think as most of the congregation, we’re still stunned. We have a lot of grieving yet to do, and I believe that grieving will start in the coming days as we have Pastor Winters’ funeral here. Chetry: Right, and I understand you had a memorial service as well for him, to remember his life and celebrate his life. If could you walk us through the day this past Sunday, you and your wife were attending services together, and you say the pastor was well into his sermon when this young man, who turned out to be the attacker, started walking down the aisle of the church. What did you think What was going through your mind when you saw this man walking right up to the pastor Melton: Well, as he walked by me, the first thing that I thought was it just seemed a little out of place for someone to be walking up to the front to take a seat at that point in the sermon. Like I said, he was well into his sermon, but then he continued up directly in front of the pastor as he was preaching. And the pastor paused, said good morning to him, asked him what he could do for him. And at that point, the assailant pulled out the gun and started shooting. Watch Melton describe the shooting and his reaction »
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Chetry: You describe what happened at first. The first shot — round was blocked by the pastor’s Bible, right It sort of almost disintegrated into the air. It looked like confetti. And then what did the pastor do after that first shot was blocked Melton: Well, as we were trying to register what was going on, seeing all the confetti, it was a bit confusing just at first, but you could see by the pastor’s reaction that that was not anything that was a part of what he was doing, and he started trying to escape the assailant. Chetry: And you said that he went after him with a laser focus and eventually, tragically, he shot and killed him. At this point, you jumped out of your seat. You ran over there trying to help him. What happened in the aftermath of the pastor being shot Melton: Well, when the first shot rang out, like I said, most of us were just kind of stunned, trying to gather our minds about what was going on. But by the time the second shot rang, there were a number of us that sprang into action, and I immediately ran. And as the pastor was trying to flee from him, basically once the pastor jumped off the stage and into the aisle-way, he was met by the gunman. And they were in close quarters, still, you know — they were still standing but still kind of wrestling together as I got there and was able to get the assailant off of him, but obviously not before the fatal shot was fired. Chetry: And you say he put up quite a fight. He actually tried to get away. You grabbed him around the leg. Someone else, also another parishioner, was trying to help out. And that’s when he pulled out a knife. You didn’t even realize that he had stabbed you. Melton: No, it was minutes after before I’d even realized that. I’m sure the adrenaline rush and everything going on, and — because once he turned to flee from me and I was able to tackle him, as soon as I looked up, I mean, there were men everywhere. They were blocking the aisles. They were doing everything they could to keep this guy contained. And immediately, once they had him secured, I ran back to the pastor to see if I could help, but by that time there were more people there who were better skilled at trying to help him. And it was in that time that I realized I’d been stabbed. Chetry: You were treated and released, thank goodness. You said you got a tetanus shot. But you guys lost Pastor Winters. But we’re learning new details now about just how much worse it could have been.
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Apparently this suspect had in his home in a planner. And it was marked Sunday as “death day,” that he had enough ammunition possibly to kill as many as 30 people, according to prosecutors. Have you thought about just how much worse this situation could have gotten if you hadn’t acted and others hadn’t acted when they did to try get this guy down Melton: It certainly — I have. You know, of course most of that come to light afterwards. I did hear someone say after we had him subdued there were other [ammunition] magazines there, but I didn’t know the extent of that until the news came out yesterday. Chetry: And how are you guys dealing with this in terms of trying to understand how this random act of violence came to your congregation for no apparent reason Melton: You know, Kiran, I don’t think that we’re ever going to be able to make sense of it. You know, evil exists in the world, and it’s going to continue to strive, and we just have to trust God and help him heal us through this because I truly believe we’ll never make sense of it.
Chetry: Well, Keith, you potentially saved many, many more lives that day, and I know that this is a tough situation for you and your congregation. We’re certainly thinking about you, and thanks so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it. Melton: Thanks, Kiran. We covet all your prayers.