Shooting suspect is church pastor

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It was off West Telephone Road in Moss Bluff that Barry Thomas allegedly shot two people. Both of them are still in the hospital. It turns out Thomas is the same Barry Thomas who is the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church on Fifth Avenue, located where the old Papania's Restaurant was for years. His name is on the sign and a church bus.

And Sheriff Tony Mancuso says after talking to witnesses they believe Thomas was under the influence of drugs when,  for no apparent reason, while inside the house, he allegedly fired fourteen shots with a semi-automatic pistol. "According to the witnesses there was no rationale why he came in there and acted the way he did. In the description from their statements and his,  he was acting very irrational and erratically. You know, rational people just don't act that way."

Mancuso says eight people, including Thomas, were in the house just before the shooting. He says they've talked to all but one and that all, including Thomas,  admitted they had been smoking crack cocaine.  "Not only by his own admissions, but by the admissions of the people who were in the house also. Basically they all admitted that they were smoking crack cocaine and under the influence of crack cocaine which is a very powerful drug. It's unfortunate. You asked me my thoughts on it being a preacher. I guess my thought in these days and times is that nothing surprises me."

As well, Mancuso says Thomas had been in trouble with the law before and had been arrested on various charges over a number of years dating back to 1991. "He had probably 30 worthless check charges alone, but most ranged from worthless check, to fraud, to theft, to drugs."

Thomas was booked for two counts of illegal use of a weapon and one count of illegally carrying a weapon. He's been released on bond. We contacted Thomas, but he declined to comment at this time. Sheriff's investigators say they are awaiting toxicology results on Thomas.