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June 26, 2014

Suicidal woman surrenders after entering church with gun

DUNCAN — A distraught woman with a loaded .40 caliber automatic handgun threatened to kill herself Wednesday after walking into the Ray of Hope Church with the weapon, authorities said.

The woman walked in a nearby field after church employees were evacuated, fired two shots into the ground, then spoke for nearly an hour with a sheriff’s deputy before she finally dropped the weapon, Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney said.

Dow Pannel, the associate pastor of the church, approached the woman with open arms and gathered her into a hug before leading her to an unmarked police vehicle.

“He came right at the end and helped us,” the sheriff said of Pannel. “She knew the pastor.”

Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers closed a portion of U.S. Highway 81 that runs near the massive church as the drama unfolded.

“A lot of negotiations went on for about an hour,” McKinney said.

An officer positioned behind the open door of a vehicle was able to speak to the young woman from about 50 feet away, McKinney said.

“She was slinging her weapon around, but for the most part she had the gun pointed at her head,” he said. “I think it’s pretty obvious the woman is under some extremely high stress, if not some kind of mental problem.”

Her identity was not disclosed.

At one point, the woman sat down and pointed the gun to her chest. At other times she stood and pointed with her left arm while keeping the handgun in her right hand.

The sheriff said the woman’s conversation with the officer included “a lot of things that didn’t make a lot of sense.”

“She was extremely upset,” McKinney said.

The sheriff said the possibility of criminal charges will not be addressed until the woman is evaluated at Duncan Regional Hospital and Taliaferro psychiatric hospital in Lawton.

The woman was described by church pastor Mike McCord as a 21-year-old from Tulsa who was living with a foster family in the Comanche area.

McKinney acknowledged church employees were terrorized when she walked into the church with the gun.

“Right now it appears she did not intend to hurt anyone. I think that if she did, she had an opportunity to, and she didn’t do that, thank God.”

“I hope we can get this young lady some help and hopefully this won’t happen again,” he said.

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