Family, Church Seek Answers After Pastor's Brutal Murder

Family, church struggle to find answers while grieving

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A medical examiner has released the name of a man who died in police custody after police say attacked and killed a church pastor in suburban Fort Worth. Police don't know if Derrick Birdow knew Reverend Danny Kirk Senior. An officer used a stun gun on Birdow after Kirk was fatally beaten.

    A Forest Hill family and congregation is mourning a popular North Texas pastor who was killed inside the church he founded.

    Police said Danny Kirk 54, was beaten to death with an electric guitar at Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church.

    The suspect, identified by the Tarrant County medical examiner as Derrick Birdow, died after police used a stun gun to restrain him.

    The medical examiner has not yet listed a cause of death for Birdow.

    The Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church reopened Tuesday morning.

    Family and church members said they're trying to carry on the slain pastor's legacy.

    "We still have a lot of work to do at the church to make sure the church goes on," said Melvin McClendson, Kirk's father-in-law. "I know that's what my son would want -- he would want the church to go on."

    McClendson said there is a huge hole in his heart, the church that Kirk founded and his family. He said his wife is still in shock.

    "She woke up this morning, and it all hit her all over again," McClendson said. "She's pretty much devastated. We all are."

    Investigators said Birdow rammed his car into the front door of the church, starting a violent rampage.

    Police say the 33-year-old man beat a church maintenance worker and broke his jaw. The man then allegedly chased Kirk into the music room, grabbed an electric guitar as a weapon and beat Kirk to death.

    Officers said they had to use a stun gun to disable Birdow.

    When officers went to check on him in the back of a squad car about 10 minutes later, he wasn't breathing. He was declared dead at the hospital.

    Church leaders said they are working to find forgiveness.

    "We have to forgive that man and pray for his family, because we can't hold that in our hearts," said James Spann, associate minister.

    Bible study will go on as planned at the church Tuesday night.

    Birdow's criminal history includes possession of a controlled substance in 1999, domestic assault in 2000, driving while intoxicated in 2004 and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, also in 2004.

    "He was a loving person, you know," said Michelle Jennings, his aunt. "We just couldn't imagine him doing anything like this. It was like he was possessed."

    His family said Fort Worth police took Birdow to John Peter Smith Hospital last week after he was acting "spacey."

    Birdow's aunt said his wife and three children attended Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church, but his family said the couple was separated.

    NBC 5's Lindsay Wilcox contributed to this article.