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Winterset pastors sees joy and triumph, not fear, following Sunday church invasion

Gage Walter of Omaha hid from law enforcement inside of St. Paul Lutheran Church for approximately four hours before surrendering.

WINTERSET, Iowa — Members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Winterset are moving forward after a person of interest in an Omaha double homicide hid inside the building Sunday morning.

Gage Walter of Omaha was hiding from police but was eventually taken into custody, and no one was hurt during his unexpected visit.

Around 8 a.m. Sunday, Pastor Ioan Ittu showed up at St. Paul. At almost exactly the same time, Walter drove over a spike strip set by law enforcement.

"At that moment, right when I got out of my car that was happening, I thought it was a car accident," Ittu said.

But it wasn't, and Walter quickly fled inside in the aftermath. For the next four hours, he remained sealed inside. Once they realized no one else was with him, Ittu and other church members tried their best to deal with the chaos.

"We're just trying to pump as much information out there to our members to not come and be safe and to make sure that everybody's okay not putting themselves in danger and giving the police what they needed information-wise," he said.

But even on a difficult day, there are still rays of hope shining through. 

A local family was supposed to have a baptism at St. Paul for their daughter on Sunday morning, but it was interrupted due to the incident. However, when the night's sermon was moved to First Christian Church, they managed to make it work.

"The lasting memory of the day for that family and our congregation is not the drama and the fear that happened in the morning but the joy that we had originally intended for that day with a baby's baptism," Ittu said.

Walter is currently being held in the Polk County jail. He is charged with second-degree theft and eluding, among other charges.

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