Police: Man who fatally beat Forest Hill pastor never backed down

Posted Thursday, Nov. 08, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Audio: Excerpt: 911 call from inside the church

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A man suspected of fatally beating a Forest Hill church pastor with an electric guitar was defiant until the end, trying to prevent officers from entering the church and then narrowly avoiding being shot by one officer as he continued his deadly attack despite being ordered at gunpoint to stop, a report states

"I ordered (Derrick) Birdow to drop the guitar and lay on the floor," officer Donnie Chesnut wrote in a police report about the bizarre Oct. 29 attack at the Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church, which was obtained by the Star-Telegram through an open records request. "Birdow did not comply but rather looked at me as he raised the guitar for another strike."

Fearing for the pastor's life, Chesnut stated that he "began squeezing the trigger on my service weapon. I then heard a pop in my ear and realizing that Officer (D.) Rudd had deployed his taser."

Though Birdow, 33, fell to the floor after being shocked with the Taser, he still would not comply with orders to turn over and place his hands behind his back and had to be shocked two or 3 more times before officers were able to handcuff him, the report said.

Pastor Danny Kirk Sr., 53, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Birdow had to be carried by two officers and placed into the back of a patrol car after lifting his feet off the ground and refusing to walk.

When officers went to have Birdow checked by medics, they found him not breathing, laying on his back in the car with his hands still handcuffed. CPR was started, but Birdow was later pronounced dead at John Peter Smith Hospital.

The cause and manner of Birdow's death remained unknown Thursday, still pending the results of lab studies.

Officers were initially dispatched to the church at 7312 Forest Hill Drive on a "burglary in progress" report. A church secretary had called 911 after hiding in a room.

While they were en route, however, dispatchers told them that a vehicle had crashed into the building and that the pastor was fighting with a man.

Officers arrived to see that a Mercury Grand Marquis had been driven into the north side of the church. They found John Whitaker, the church's janitor, with a head wound and carrying a wooden board.

"I asked Whitaker what happened and he stated something about somebody going crazy and hitting him," Chesnut detailed in the report.

Whitaker also told the officer that he needed to go into the building to get his pastor, who was lying on the floor in a room.

Rudd arrived, and both officers were positioning themselves near the church's north entrance when Birdow suddenly opened the door, startling Chesnut.

"I drew my service weapon and ordered Birdow out of the doorway," Chesnut stated. "Birdow looked directly at me and I observed he had blood on his hand. Birdow then went back inside the church and tried to close the door behind him, preventing our entry.

"I caught the door and entered the church to pursue Birdow."

Birdow ran east down a hallway near where his car had crashed into the church, then entered a room with something in his hand.

Chesnut approached to find Birdow "swinging an electric guitar in a downward direction, striking a male that was lying on the floor with severe injuries to his head," the report states.

Birdow's wife said he had struggled with mental illness.

Chief Dan Dennis has said that the investigation, which is being led by the Texas Rangers, is continuing.

Deanna Boyd, (817) 390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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