Jamie Coots was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake Saturday night, dropped the snake, then picked it back up and continued on. Within minutes, Coots headed to the bathroom.
Emergency workers left about 9:10 p.m. that night. When they returned about an hour later, Coots was dead from a venomous snake bite, police added.
The snake-handling pastor’s son, Cody Coots, told the television station his dad had been bit eight times before, but never had had such a severe reaction. The son said he had thought the bite would be just like all the others.
“We’re going to go home, he’s going to lay on the couch, he’s going to hurt, he’s going to pray for a while and he’s going to get better. That’s what happened every other time, except this time was just so quick and it was crazy, it was really crazy,” Cody Coots said.
In January 2013, Coots was caught transporting three rattlesnakes and two copperheads through Knoxville, Tenn. Wildlife officials confiscated the snakes, and Coots pleaded guilty to illegally wildlife possession. He was given one year of unsupervised probation.
National Geographic said in a statement that it was struck by Coots’ ”devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced.”
“Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith,” the statement said. “We were honored to be allowed such unique access to pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship.”
Coots said in February 2013 that he needed the snakes for religious reasons, citing a Bible passage in the book of Mark that reads, in part: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
The pastor said that year that he took that passage at face value.
“We literally believe they want us to take up snakes,” Coots told The Associated Press at the time. “We’ve been serpent handling for the past 20 or 21 years.”