Time to Wake Up— Active Shooters 2005

Wake Up Call by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 ImageCreator

2005 seems to have been a year of unique active shooter situations. Of the ten that occurred that year, three dealt with special circumstances. One happened in a church (which unfortunately is not so uncommon anymore), one involved a hostage situation, and one involved a shooter who was still at large as of September 2014. This blog will focus on the shooting that occurred at Living Church of God on March 12, 2005.

Churches are a difficult case. First, your purpose in attending a church is to worship, so your thoughts are not generally on safety and security. Second, the most security I have seen at any given church is an armed and licensed Personal Protection Officer who stands outside the sanctuary while the services are conducted. Third, nobody expects churches to be the targets of an active shooter, especially since the majority of active shooters come from within the community.

As an active shooter researcher, I make it a point to be aware of my environment and situation for safety purposes. I don’t use my phone while pumping gas at a gas station. I know where every exit is in my local grocery store. My husband and I sit strategically in restaurants for a quick escape if necessary. And I see chapel at my Baptist university as a total danger zone. After all, twice a week, every student is conveniently gathered into one room, where loud music would make it difficult to even hear a gun go off. Yes, we have that one security officer in the lobby, but again the noise would make a gun difficult to hear. So, I sit strategically, behind one of the big cedar posts on the extreme edge of the chapel near a side door so that I can escape quickly if something like an active shooter event were to happen.

People don’t think this way at church. Thy think of socializing and singing and listening to the pastor. They sit in the same church pew they’ve been sitting in for thirty years, and they don’t give one extra second of thought to the outside world.

March 12, 2005 was just like any other ordinary Saturday for followers of the Living Church of God. Because they didn’t have a building, the congregation met in a local hotel. About 20 minutes into the service, a member of the congregation walked into the room, clearly angry, and began shooting. He killed seven people, injured four more, and committed suicide. Investigations have been conducted into this shooting, and authorities have concluded that his angry rampage had something to do with the church. He had also struggled with depression and was going through a rough patch at the time. Still, however, his motives remain unclear. What exactly he was angry about we will never know. But, that is not the point.

The point is that nobody was prepared. I am almost positive that not one of the congregation members decided to sit in a strategically different seat in case of active shooters, and I can almost guarantee you that nobody walks into church or synagogue or their mosque thinking about where they should sit in case of an active shooter. The point beyond that is that this is a societal weak point for safety and security. In the last few years, we have had a significant increase in churches that want active shooter response training. Churches are starting to wake up and realize that they are not immune to active shooters. My Baptist University finally put deadbolts on the classroom doors (Hallelujah!). It is time. Wake up. Pull your head out of the sand. You are not immune because you are in a church building. If anything, you are a better target. It is time to be prepared. I challenge you to prepare yourself. I challenge you to encourage your house of worship to receive active shooter response training. I challenge you to challenge the status quo. To change your thinking, change your behavior, and manage risk.

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