Security!? In a church?
Raymond Ursino was strangled to death in the parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church. A man was arrested, but then set free due to a lack of evidence.
Disclaimer Notice on incident stories and statistics: All crimes are “alleged” pending court. All attackers are innocent until proven guilty.
Extensive effort has been made to verify accuracy in each story summary. Information is gathered from major news syndicates, law enforcement press releases, and public court records. While great care is taken with the wording of each incident, a certain margin of error exists in any collection of data. I welcome any corrective suggestions discovered by readers. I cannot be held responsible for errors, but will correct any error discovered as soon as more accurate information is confirmed.
NEW FOR 2015: for 2015 and beyond, this incident tracking includes all incidents where the senior pastor (and / or members of the pastor’s family) was murdered at their home, or murdered someone else themselves. Such an event would affect any church security operator deeply, so we need to know about these as well. 2015 had some awful stories in this regard.
When I started tracking deadly force incidents at faith-based organizations I had ideas of what such an incident looked like. Those ideas came from archetypical stories like Alvin Lee King (6/22/1980) or Shon Miller (3/10/1999) shooting church congregants as they sat in a worship service. As reading dozens of stories in a few years turned into researching hundreds of stories over more than a decade, a clearer understanding of the assorted nature of deadly force incidents emerged. Details of every attack are unique, but patterns developed and trends emerged to challenge pre-conceived notions. The reality of vulnerabilities and what really constituted a deadly force incident expanded.
By 2005, I knew that the number of deadly force incidents I had recorded surprised others as I disclosed the findings – nobody had any idea of the frequency and volume of deadly force incidents related to US churches and ministries. I wanted to publish the findings -- to list stories that would be of applicable interest to church security operators and to provide occasional details as lessons learned.
One of the biggest misconceptions I still encounter with some readers is that we should only be concerned about an incident that has something to do specifically with the church – an opinion that we should analyze the details of an attack on faith-based property to see if there was some sort of “connection” to the ministry.
As if a stabbing at a Wal-Mart would have to be related to the cost of underwear for store security to be concerned? If a dead body showed up on the front steps of your home it would be irrelevant to you? If a drug deal turned bad and ended with gunfire on the White House lawn it wouldn’t be noteworthy if the President wasn’t even there at the time and no connection to the President could be confirmed? Any church that has experienced violence on their grounds knows how personal it is, whether it happened during a service or not and regardless of the connection to the church.
Connection is between the church and the community. If we become so disconnected as to not care when a gang fight in our parking lot claims a young life, we are missing our mission. The Central Church of Christ of Sarasota Florida modeled this connection for others after the body of 11-year old Carlie Brucia was found in their parking lot on Feb 5th 2004 following her abduction from a nearby car wash on Feb 1st. Though no evidence suggested she was actually killed there, the church now conducts an annual “Kids Safety Rally” and maintains a “Garden of Joy” in Carlie’s honor. It hit them as it should. It was their community and the crime had a dark and significant component of it that occurred on their property.
I also know there are still stories missed. I know police officers who have worked homicides, attempted homicides and suicides at faith-based properties where there was never any discoverable information publicized. If not allowed to list the source in the data base, I do not publish the story.
A deadly force incident is still one of the least likely things to happen at a ministry. The research published on this website verifies it happens more than previously thought.
Statistics can be found (or manipulated) to support predetermined opinions. So care must be taken in the gathering and presentation. I try very hard to discover and present simple truth in numbers and narratives. There is no agenda aside from information for the proliferation of awareness in order to start, improve or confirm safety and security readiness in faith-based operations.
This website is not in competition with any other website, speaker or author. Others contribute many good things through their websites and diverse venues. Paul said, “Test everything. Hold on to the good,”[i] Test what you find here and on other sites then apply the combination of all the best to your specific ministry. But get started .
You will find incidents from this year and the last full year prior summarized on this site. There are volumes of news stories, court documents, and eyewitness accounts of these stories compiled into statistical information which has been summarized in the tab of VIOLENCE STATISTICS in order to establish meaningful data.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to offer information on any of the listed stories, ones missed, or for a copy of the “Story Source and Publishing Policy.”
Thank you for your visit to this website, and keep up the great work of keeping His people safe.
[i] 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (New International Version)
A 22-year-old man apparently stabbed his own mother to death as she sat behind the wheel in her car at Grace Church. The man then killed himself.
Georgia, Friday 5/26/17: A man got out of a car, went up to a man sleeping on the steps of a Methodist church, stabbed him repeatedly in the torso and head, then left again in his car.
Virginia, Wednesday 5/24/17: A 52-year-pld woman walked into a Catholic church with a gun and demanded cash from a victim inside.
Ohio, Monday 5/22/17: An armed robbery suspect fled from police to the parking lot of a church where he shot and killed himself.
Arkansas, Monday 5/21/17: Church staff were inside when they heard a loud bang and saw a man driving off. Police responded, discovered a church window had been shot out and recovered the bullet.
Missouri, Sunday 5/21/15: A argument erupted in a church during services and one of the men shot a greeter in the head who attempted to intervene.
80-year-old Joseph McDowell was the senior pastor of the Southard Baptist Church in Columbus, OH. In an effort of outreach, he had allowed a troubled man to live in his garage. That man is now charged with his beating death. This was the third brutal act against a senior pastor in March of 2017 (see incidents on 3/14 and 3/22), and the 2nd in March where the Pastor died.
See this and other stories by selecting the button to the right.
Some of the following five current stories may not make the final cut of qualified deadly force incidents, but we want you to know what we are watching.
Copyright Notice: If you can use any material on this website to make churches or ministries safer, please do so. Please pass on the information as freely as it is given.
Story updates 5/10/17 Updates through 4/01/17 posted.
First Reports of 5 most recent developing stories (below) updated 5/27/17
All crimes are “alleged” pending court. All attackers are innocent until proven guilty.