A snake-handling American pastor who died from a rattlesnake bite had believed the Bible had wanted him to handle snakes.
Jamie Coots, who had appeared on the National Geographic TV reality show Snake Salvation, died on Saturday after being bitten.
Coots had been handling serpents for more than 20 years, citing for this practice a passage in the book of Mark that reads, in part: “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.”
Coots was handling a rattlesnake during a Saturday night service at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro when he was bitten, said preacher Cody Winn.
“Jamie … had one of the rattlers in his hand, he came over and he was standing beside me. It was plain view, it just turned its head and bit him in the back of the hand … within a second,” Winn said.
When an ambulance arrived at the church, they were told Coots had gone home, police said.
Contacted at his house, Coots refused medical treatment. But an hour later, he was dead from the venomous snake bite.
In January 2013, Coots was convicted of illegal wildlife possession after being caught transporting three rattlesnakes and two copperheads through Knoxville, Tennessee. He was given one year of unsupervised probation.
That’s when Coots told authorities he took the Bible passage at face value.
“We literally believe they want us to take up snakes,” Coots told AP in February 2013.
After he was bitten on Saturday night, Coots dropped the snakes, but picked them back up and continued. Within minutes, Winn said, Coots headed to the bathroom.
Coots’ son Cody said his dad had been bitten eight times before and he thought this would be just like the other times.
“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.