NOTE: This first ran as a TAI in 2011, but I know many readers have come along since then. With the recent Las Vegas massacre, it seemed timely to run it again. One could replace “church” with “concert” (or any other venue) – the message would be similar.
Some trauma can be disturbing enough to cause one to remember life before, compared to life after -- “it”.
A deadly force incident in a church is painful enough to do that. We don’t expect to see blood, hear gunshots, smell smoke or feel the concussion of explosion in a house of worship. Our church is our sanctuary. When evil invades it, that day marks the separation of life before and after for those who were there.
If anyone is still living who was there in 1916 at the Mt. Tabor Church revival in Decatur, IL when Edgar Willis was shot by Henry Sharp, the sounds of gunfire are still fresh in their minds. The wounded survivors from the horrific 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that left four innocent little girls dead will never forget it. The angry darkness of smoke replaced the bright futures of 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. One of those little girls was decapitated by the blast lit by wretched hatred.
And the entire town of Daingerfield Texas changed on Sunday morning June 22nd, 1980, when Alvin Lee King invaded the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church. An atmosphere of worship was shattered when he yelled “This is War!” and began randomly shooting into the congregation. Dressed in an Army helmet and 2 flak jackets he had an AR-15, and an M1 carbine (both with fixed bayonets), two handguns and plenty of ammo in a bag he carried around his shoulders. Before being stopped by men who carry the scars today (or are counted among those killed), he slew 5 people ranging in ages from 7-year-old Gina Linam up to 78-year-old Thelma Richardson. His surprise attack left Daingerfield residents asking not only why -- but how.
An 80-minute documentary came out regarding that incident. Take a moment to view information about it at http://heartstonetv.com/faith-under-fire (sorry you must copy and paste the address). It will bring you face to face with the reality of evil, but more importantly will renew your faith by understanding the significance of redemption and forgiveness.
Think About It…
You should order a copy of “Faith Under Fire” then view it with your security team. Develop your own “lessons learned” as you consider the story. The lessons learned go beyond the smoke and blood, carrying through more than 30 years of after-action relationships.
The perspectives we take away from such an event can change our lives and others. Will we let it destroy us or make us better? The choice really is ours. As David Works (see next bullet) says on his website, “When tragedy strikes, will you be left standing”?
David and Marie Works lost two innocent girls in the church shooting at New Life Church. Their response is a model for all. Not only did they meet with, embrace and forgive the good family the shooter came from, but they wrote a book of encouragement I strongly recommend: Gone in a Heartbeat -- Our Daughters Died...Our Faith Endures
In 1981 John Walsh was a Hotel Manager. His response to the horrific abduction and murder of his 6-year-old son that year, led him into a lifetime of well-known crime fighting from the civilian side that has international acclaim. His America's Most Wanted was responsible for many criminal captures world-wide. Though it didn’t have anything to do with a faith-based incident, Mr. Walsh’s response is a model for those who have come through any such trauma.
As Faith-based security professionals we try hard to never let anything like that occur at our place on our watch. But if it does, we still play an important role in managing the incident. We can’t promise security, but we can promise to be there and to be ready to protect and serve.
A criminal never thinks his act clear through. If he did, he wouldn’t do it. As mature men and women of faith, we must think things all the way through. No matter what happens, there will be an “after”.
Handle it with care.
And Last Weeks TAI...
Intentions matter more than inventions
When we see news that 58 people have been killed by a single actor, it leaves us stunned and angry. Stunned that so much evil could be in any one person. Stunned that one could have such little value for the life of others. Angry that it’s simply a new record. Angry that we’ve seen it before and will see it again.
Evil has been in the heart of man since the beginning. As much as I applaud the efforts of all who try to stop it before it happens, it will continue happening. Whether the inventions used are guns, autos, explosives, planes or bump-stocks, there is always an object the conversation centers around. But the problem isn’t the invention.
Homo sapiens are the most effective predator that has ever roamed the earth. Collinsdictionary.com claims, “what distinguishes homo sapiens from every other living creature is the mind.”
The same mental ability that invents objects and methods to provide and protect can also steal and destroy. While the invention matters, the intention matters more.
It really doesn’t matter what we call it, or why they supposedly did it, when a person murders others they don’t even know it is in total void of empathy. A psychopath. Others might murder people they have some sort of connection with, in a moment of disregard of empathy consistent with their lack of conscience. A sociopath. Some mental health professionals say a sociopath is hot headed and a psychopath is cold and calculated.
The prevalence of psychopathy is debated in professional circles, but seems to be around 1%. The prevalence of sociopathy seems to be around 3%. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 9% of Americans have some form of personality disorder.
So, between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people through your doors every Sunday is somewhere on the scale of concern. What matters most, is their intentions that day.
Whether someone has no empathy with a personal disconnect 400 yards away and 32 floors up, or is temporarily angry over road rage and nose-to-nose with you, it is their intentions that can hurt you.
So, we must be intentional in protection.
Think About it…
A great disturbance in the social force brings those with antisocial disorders to the surface the way a rainstorm brings worms up out of the ground. That is why we have the term, “copycats.”
Copycats can act immediately after, or on the anniversary of, some major event. This is a good weekend for added vigilance.
The most important thing to me in protection of my family is to know who might want to hurt them. Next I would want to know why, and right away I want to know when. The object they will use is considered way down the line. So why is it with every tragic attack, news focuses first on the invention?
It’s not so much about what’s in their hands we should be concerned with, it is what’s in their hearts. Since we don’t know until after what their intention is (or even who they are), we remain alert and ready.
And last week’s TAI…
Things to know about Antioch.
As most of you know, there was an attack in Antioch, TN last Sunday (9/24/2017) that left 1 person dead and 7 others injured. Like any such incident, there is a lot of partial truths, hyperbole and assumptions being thrown around.
I have tried very hard to sift through the incident and pull out relevant facts that will help us understand more about the attack. As always, this is an attempt to help us better understand the things a church security team would be interested in. So, the portions of the following are aimed primarily at those relative topics.
The attack occurred at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the Antioch neighborhood (and zip code) of Nashville, TN. Police support for this neighborhood is by the Nashville Police Department, South Precinct.
The subject had attended the church one to two years prior having never shown any actions that would have brought concern.
The subject was a legal immigrant from Sudan. His family had come to the U.S. in 1996. He would have been 4 years old. The subject was 25-years-old on the day of the attack.
He started the attack at about 11:15 Sunday morning just as services were ending. Some people had left, or were leaving the small parking lot (about 75 parking spaces) when the attack began.
The subject left his SUV running. Don't overthink this. While it could have been intentional indicating his plans for an escape and / or more targets, it is quite possible this was an oversight due either to the cognitive dissonance common to violent attackers or related to his every-day limited mental capacity.
The subject appears to have fired 12 rounds total, all from a .40 S & W. He was also carrying a 9mm handgun. He had changed magazines one time. He was wearing tactical clothing and a ½ mask. He was carrying 3 additional loaded magazines. It is unclear whether those were 40, 9mm or .22. He had a .22 and an AR15 still in the SUV. He had no ammunition on him or in the SUV for the AR15 (which was in a case).
The only one of the firearms he owned was the .22 pistol. All 3 of the other firearms (including the .40 S & W he used) belonged to a relative. The subject did not have a conceal carry permit (but he wasn’t carrying concealed anyway, so I don’t know why that is even a subject). Regardless of all other gun laws, he was breaking laws by his acts of violence.
The subject had sent a suicidal text on June 27th to his dad. Nashville police found the subject that day at a G4S security office in Nashville where he was apparently applying for work. He was never hired by G4S. He had a unarmed security guard license in effect through 2014 and 2015, but it had lapsed. He had recently taken classes to get it renewed and had worked for Crimson Security Services on Saturday before the attack on Sunday. He sent a message to Crimson on Sunday about 10:01 AM saying he would not be returning to work that day.
The message to Crimson and two recent facebook posts were all leakage that he had gone off the rails. In one of the facebook posts he said, "Everything you've ever doubted or made to [believe] as false, is real & vice versa…” In another he showed his biceps (he was a body builder) with a caption, “unrestricted paroxysm.” According to the dictionary, “paroxysm” means, “any sudden, violent outburst; a fit of violent action or emotion.”[i]
He killed Melanie Crow Smith (39) in the parking lot as she was walking to her car. He then entered the church through a back door and inflicted the following injuries (all of which were non-fatal);
Shot Pastor David Spann (66) and his wife Peggy (65).
Shot Donald Jenkins (83) and his wife Marlene (84)
Shot 68-year-old Linda Bush
Shot 64-year-old Catherine Dickerson
Hit 22-year-old Robert "Caleb" Engle over the head with his pistol when Engle tackled him.
As Engle tackled the subject, the subject shot himself in the chest (either accidently or on purpose). Then Engle ran to his own car, retrieved his own gun and held the subject for law enforcement.
The subject often posted his affirmation of Christian beliefs on his facebook. There is no indication of any Islamic ties outside of his home country being Sudan.
The subject did have a note in his car referencing the Charleston attack of 2015.
Think About it…
It is unlikely (even though the subject had a history with law enforcement including domestic violence) that the attack could have been foreseen or avoided. I mean, how many people say stupid things every day on Facebook? As an outside defender, the first thing to notice would have been the subject pulling into the parking lot as services were ending. It is likely the first opportunity for intervention might have been when he stepped out of his vehicle dressed tactically with a mask, or (assuming an outside defender wouldn’t have been right there to see him step out) the sounds of gunfire.
Had that been your church, how quickly could you have locked the outside doors?
There will be people saying this was a racial attack. It might have been, but like the Charleston attack of 2015 it doesn’t indicate any kind of a coordinated large attack by any organized group. This attacker is no more capable of starting a race war than the idiot thug of Charleston. It’s just that the idiot thug of Antioch was black attacking whites as opposed to the white idiot thug attacking blacks in Charleston.
All the race, hate crime and gun control laws anyone could ever pass will not stop an idiot thug trying to make a name for himself. Well you won't read his name on this site.
22-year-old Robert "Caleb" Engle stopped the attack and saved lives. If you read my Christmas story last year, you know how the name “Caleb” has its origins as a “Sheepdog.” That young man has also been very quiet and saying only the right things.
Well done Caleb.
SECURITY? IN A CHURCH?
This section is updated every Sunday morning to give church security teams some things to think about as they prepare for weekend services. I wish your team the very best and hope you may find occasional things applicable to your operations.
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.