Shanna Horton told her next-door neighbor and longtime friend not long ago that she wanted to come hear him preach at his Lancaster County church for the first time. That will never happen now.
Darrell Morgan, pastor of New Harvest Freewill Baptist Church in Lancaster County’s Tradesville community, was shot and killed by two sheriff’s deputies Thursday after a domestic dispute with his estranged wife, police say.
According to police, Morgan followed his wife into the Carolina Corner Store on U.S. 521 just after 2 p.m. Thursday. They talked before Morgan pulled out a handgun. Deputies were called, and Morgan reportedly pointed the gun at the officers before they fired their weapons at the 60-year-old pastor.
Three people, including a child, were inside the store at the time but were not injured, according to the sheriff’s office. The two deputies, who were not injured, have been placed on paid administrative leave while the State Law Enforcement Division investigates the shooting.
“Mr. Morgan presented a clear and immediate threat to the civilians in the business with him and to the officers on scene,” Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said in a release Friday. “... I am confident the officers ... who answered this call acted in accordance with their training and the policies of the sheriff’s office. Our prayers and condolences are extended to the Morgan family during this difficult time.”
Horton lived next door to Morgan on Williams Estate Drive for two years but had been friends with him for 25 years.
“You couldn’t ask for nobody better than him. You would never expect this to happen,” she said. “He loved to talk to people. He didn’t meet a stranger. Two of my boys have special needs; he loved to sing with them all the time.”
Horton said Morgan and his wife of 40 years recently began having issues, and that she left him. Horton and her fiancée last saw their neighbor Wednesday night.
“When we seen him we said, ‘Where you been at, stranger?’ ” she recalled. “He said, ‘My world’s just fell apart.’ ”
Horton’s fiancée stayed with Morgan for a couple of hours Wednesday before they left to go to church, and told her the pastor seemed in good spirits. He even mentioned plans to make improvements to his home.
“We don’t want people to think he was some kind of devil,” she said. “We never seen any kind of mean thing come out of his mouth. We’d talk to them all the time.”
Horton said Morgan’s love for God is what she’ll remember most about him.
“He always would say he would want people to be ready to go (to heaven),” she said. “He’d always tell us we should be ready.”
Cliff Elledge and his family live across the street from Morgan’s small church in the Tradesville community. He said Morgan started out renting the building for his church, but the owner later gave it to him.
“He offered several times (for Elledge and his family) to come visit the church and become members,” Elledge said, adding that he did some painting in the building for Morgan.
“I don’t understand it,” he said of Thursday’s officer-involved shooting. “I really don’t. I didn’t even think of him as someone to do something like that. I don’t believe he would have shot anybody.”
Elledge’s wife, Sylvia, said she was disappointed none of the church members placed any kind of memorial outside the church, so she picked some flowers from her yard and placed them in a vase under the church marquee. The last message Morgan placed on the marquee is still there: “Love one another.”
“He was a super nice guy,” she said. “You never know what’s going on with a person.”
Elledge remembered chasing his dog across the street to the church one Sunday morning about a month ago.
“He said, ‘Oh, he’s wanting to come to church today. Y’all both can come on in,’ ” Elledge said, referring to Morgan. “A lot of times we’d speak on Sunday morning. That won’t happen again.”
Teddy Kulmala • 803-329-4082