NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE
FOREST HILL — John Whitaker was cleaning inside Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church in Forest Hill Monday morning. He remembers hearing a crash, seeing a fight, and trying to save his beloved pastor's life.
"I heard a big bang, and I didn't know what it was," Whitaker said. "The motor revved up, and when the dust cleared, I saw Pastor [Danny] Kirk on the hood of the car."
Whitaker ran outside and saw the suspect — whom family members identified as 33-year-old Derrick Birdow — beating his pastor.
"I hit the man upside the head and it didn't faze him," he said. "I went and got a 2-by-2 [piece of lumber] and hit him again, more than once, and that didn't faze that man."
"He was crazy. He was super strong," Whitaker added said. "Something was wrong with that man."
Birdow broke away from Rev. Danny Kirk and ran inside, with Whitaker and Kirk following. The attack continued near the music room, Whitaker said.
"I got blindsided," he said. "When I rounded the corner, he hit me upside the head with a guitar... twice.
"I was dazed, but I hit him again when I saw he was hitting pastor."
Forest Hill Police Chief Dan Dennis said his officers arrived as Birdow was hitting Kirk. One of the officers Tased Birdow, who was handcuffed and put in a patrol car. The suspect later died at a hospital.
Pastor Kirk died at his church.
"Best man this side of heaven," said his 17-year-old son, Danny Kirk, Jr.
Whitaker spent several hours in the hospital, but his injuries are not life-threatening.
He said Rev. Kirk changed his life. "He taught us. He taught me," Whitaker said. "I have never known a pastor like that. I have never known a man like that."
"He was truly a man of God," Whitaker added. "Just like Jesus bled, he bled for his church."