He then marched down the aisle, shooting between the benches as screaming parishioners scattered in horror and pausing once to calmly reload. Among the crowd, police said, were the man's wife and child.
"His little boy turned and said, 'Daddy.' That's when he shot. He hit his wife first and then the baby," said congregation member Lolita Enkadi.
"And then he just started emptying his gun. He shot one in the back of the head. We were all trying to get down. I just lay on the bench and started praying."
Police said the gunman's two family members and another member of the New St. John Fellowship Baptist Church congregation were killed. Four others were injured, two of them critically.
Police say Shon Miller also shot his mother-in-law to death at home, before traveling the few blocks to the one-story stucco church 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge.
"The safest place in world I always thought was a church and now that sanctuary has been broken," said police Chief Bill Landry. "We'll all be a long time getting over this."
Officers said it took three hours of searching around the single-family homes and winter cabbage gardens near the church in this small town of 7,000 before they found Miller.
When they discovered him in a shed about 100 yards away, he tried to kill himself, Landry said. An officer blasted the pistol out of his hand with a shotgun at close range, wounding him. Miller's condition was not released.
Miller will be charged with four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder, Landry said.
When the firing started, about 50 to 75 worshippers were inside the building where the congregation is holding services while the big brick church down the street is renovated.
The Rev. Wilbert Holmes said he thought it was some kind of prank when the gunman burst through the foyer doors.
"Then he started shooting," Holmes said. "I would think I was his easiest target. Everybody else was sitting down."
But his targets were in the congregation.
The shooting lasted long enough for the gunman to empty one clip in the semi-automatic pistol and then reload and continue shooting into the pews. As he left, Holmes heard him mumble something like, "That will show you."
Landry said investigators were still compiling the names of the victims, but the minister said the slain wife was Carla Miller.
Authorities said the other victims included a 53-year-old woman and 19-year-old man. Two people were hospitalized in critical condition, and two teen-agers were in good condition. One of them was Enkadi's 16-year-old son, Donald Rideau, who was shot in the leg.
Nadine Wilson, Mrs. Miller's ousin, said the Millers married about two years ago and separated a short time later.
"It was just a domestic problem that turned into domestic violence," Landry said.
Written by Guy Coates