Pastor Jamie Coots, the star of “Snake Salvation,” died Saturday after he was bitten on his right hand by a poisonous snake at his Kentucky church. The Pentecostal pastor refused to accept any medical treatment or to go to the hospital, according to Middlesborough police.
Police and emergency medical responders were called about 8:30 p.m. to the church in response to a report of a snakebite victim, but Coots had already left, police said.
Coots, believed snake handling was a commandment from God and a viper’s bite was “God’s will,” he said. “When I first started church I said if I ever went to a hospital or a doctor over a snake bite I would quit church,” Coots said in one episode of his show, which aired on the National Geographic’s television channel,
This was not Coots first poisonous snake bite. He had previously lost most of the middle finger on his right hand. Instead of seeking medical attention for the gruesome injury, he let it rot to black, exposing a quarter inch of bone before it broke off, reports the New York Daily News.
He then reportedly kept the stub of the finger in a glass jar for his wife.
“To me it’s as much of a commandment from God when he said, ‘they shall take up serpents’ as it was when he ‘thou shall not commit adultery,” Coots told viewers.
Coots was just as resolute on Saturday, according to police.
After his refusal of medical assistance at the church, emergency responders returned later. They found Coots at home and again tried to talk him into medical treatment, but he wouldn’t accept it. The crews finally left about 9:10 p.m., according to police.
They returned about an hour later with the Bell County Deputy Coroner, and Coots was already dead.
Jamie Coots was arrested in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes in his home, National Geographic reported.
He also had been sentenced in February 2013 to a one-year probation for crossing into Tennessee with venomous snakes. Snake handling has been outlawed in most states, but Coots had made it his mission to carry on the tradition—a tradition for which will apparently go on without him.
"Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith," a statement issued by the channel 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. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."