Several weeks ago I went to an active shooter seminar that was put on by A.L.I.C.E. During the seminar the instructor showed the video of the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan. In order to fully understand what we are going to talk about in this post you really have to watch the video. Go ahead I will wait.
Now a little background about the attempt.
On March 20, 1981 President Ronald Reagan had just finished a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington DC. Leaving and heading to his car President Reagan was waving to a crowd that had gathered outside the hotel hoping to get a glimpse of the 40th president of the United States.
Out of the crowd a lone gunman fired 6 shots from a .22 revolver. One of those rounds hit President Reagan in the chest, one round hit White House Press Secretary James Brady in the head, Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy and Washington DC police officer Thomas Delahanty were also hit with non-fatal injuries. What happened afterwards can only be described as chaos.
The A.L.I.C.E. instructor brought up several good points that we discussed on Saturday June 4, 2016 at the Church Safety Networking Group meeting however I want to bring them up again and throw them out for discussion. In the video within a matter of seconds a seemly uneventful day turned into an event that has been analyzed and discussed to the ninth degree. Every time we watch this train wreck of an event we learn something new. Do not get me wrong, I have been in situations where all “H-E-double hockey sticks” breaks loose and the only thing that saves the day is training. Everything else goes out the window; what you have been training for years kicks in and you go into automatic mode. These Secret Service Agents and D.C. police officers did what they were trained for; eliminate the threat with whatever force is necessary. When looking at this video there are over a dozen Secret Service Agents and police officers on the scene yet as I review the film over and over I only see three guns drawn.
The instructor from A.L.I.C.E. pointed out that even though the shooter got off 6 shots, not one shot was fired by the good guy. This is important to think about because in almost all shootings in a house of worship the shooter is either taken down by members of the congregation, flees the church when confronted or commits suicide after they have shot several victims. In all my years of doing church safety I can only recall two incidents where a good guy or good girl with a weapon at a house of worship engaged the shooter while the shooter was still on church property and a threat. Out of 248 deadly force incidents and 76 deaths for the year of 2015 I cannot recall one shooter being shot or confronted by an armed member of the church.
So what does that tell us? It tells us that if an armed subject gets into your worship center it is most likely that shooter will be taken down like the shooter was on March 30, 1981 when he attempted to assassinate President Reagan, instead of a shootout.
Have I got your attention yet? March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday, a man with two guns walked into Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. The greeter that came into contact with the suspect noticed (Observed) two things, he had a backpack on and he also had a semi-automatic pistol in his pocket. The greeter stated that the suspect asked where the balcony was located. The volunteer seeing what looked like a pistol, the way the suspect did not respond to her welcoming smile and salutations decided (Assessed) to contact someone immediately. The volunteer contacted (Reacted) an associate pastor who contacted the safety team leader advising him of the situation and the safety team responded and confronted the suspect.
The safety team members did not have their guns drawn but approached the suspect in a way that allowed them to talk the suspect out of his weapon. This led them to find that he also had an assault rifle in the backpack he was carrying. The suspect still tried to make his way into the worship center where he was tackled and then detained till the police arrived. Their training worked. This is why it is so important to train the volunteers and staff at your church so that when tense situations like these happen, they know how to respond.
I understand the importance of having armed safety team members on your campus. We work off the premise that we will stop a person wanting to cause harm before they get into the sanctuary just like they did at Bellevue Baptist Church. You should be training your volunteers and staff to observe, assess and react; if they see something, say something. You need to be training your volunteers and staff on what to look for like guns in their pants pocket, or suspicious demeanor or as one of the church wrote in their policies and procedures, it DLR (doesn’t look right). At our church we have a three tier setup where new visitors to our church are touched at least three times before they get into the heart of our church. This is what we need to be training our staff and volunteers on how to spot the threat before it gets into the worship center.
Let us at Trinity Security Allies help you with this. Did I tell you we do this for free? What are you waiting for? Contact us and let us do a free walk around your church looking for your strength and weaknesses. Let us come in and help you train you volunteers and staff on what to look for and what are the best ways to respond when someone walks into your church with other things on their mind other than worshiping God.
Let’s get together and talk but before I let you go I want you watch this video of an incredible man of God and listen to what he has to say; he is dead on.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.