West Freeway Church of Christ Shooting 2019
*Note: The name of any shooters will never be said in one of our blogs or podcasts. We never want them to get recognition or infamy. Additionally, we were not there at the time of the events described. We can only speculate based on video evidence and reports.
The West Freeway Church of Christ Shooting in 2019 is a perfect example of why we do what we do. To be successful in the kind of situation presented to churchgoers, we must be empowered with the tools necessary to survive and save lives in an Active Shooter Situation. Guest Chris Reeves and I explore the video of that tragic day to find insights that we all can use to better prepare ourselves and others for the unthinkable.
You can watch the above video of the shooting if you are comfortable with watching that kind of graphic content. There is no blood or anything, but you can see and hear exactly what happened. For the rest of you, I want to set the stage so you can get an idea of what happened.
There were 200+ people at the Church that Sunday morning on December 29th, 2019. The shooter entered the building, sat in the back left, and waited for service to start. After/during communion, the shooter stands up, confronts a member of the congregation at the back of the room, and proceeds to pull a shotgun out of his trench coat. The shooter oddly waited a full 4 seconds until he shot his first victim, a member of the church security team who seemed to be struggling to pull his firearm. Next, he shot the member of the congregation he was speaking to previously. That is when the head of their security team had pulled his firearm and was able to send one round into the shooter and end the violence a mere 6 seconds after the shooter pulled his shotgun.
There were many things from the video that became immediately apparent when I watched it. The first is the shooter himself. He came in wearing a wig, a fake beard, a toboggan, and a trench coat. Now, the toboggan and coat are typical for a cold winter day except that day's temperature hit 73 degrees in White Settlement, Texas where the church is located. The combination of the fake beard and wig alone is a huge red flag. A mother in attendance that day who sat near the shooter said that she didn't recognize him at all and said that his outfit was weird but that she didn't say anything. There was probably someone on the safety team or a greeter at the door when he walked in. It seems that they didn't say anything either. In fairness, you and I may not have said anything either. If we were there, we might have felt embarrassed to say anything.
What if someone had said something? What if the police were called the moment someone saw the fake beard, wig, and trench coat? What if someone from the security team politely asked him to step outside to talk to figure out if he was a threat?
This is truly a lesson for those of you who have a team or group designated to be a safety or security team at your organization. They MUST be trained to recognize potential threats such as this and take action to talk the guy down or figure out how to eliminate the threat peacefully and quietly.
Krieg and Associates located in Tyler, Texas are a great resource for this kind of specialized training for a security/safety team. If these actions had been taken, there might not have been any loss of life that day.
The second thing I noticed was the actions of the first person shot. He fumbled with his firearm and seemed to struggle to pull it out in the 4 seconds between when the shooter pulled his shotgun and when the first shot rang. This may have been a complete fluke and he was generally very proficient with his weapon, however, this goes to show that proficiency with pulling and firing your weapon should you choose to carry is so important.
Third, the actions of the entire congregation are reflective of a group that has not been a part of an event to prepare for an active shooter. They were not empowered. If you watched the video, you saw that people did one of 2 things, they froze or they fled. Those are 2 of the innate human responses in a panic. Some people at the back of the room immediately left the scene, most people ducked behind the pews for a false sense of protection, and still, others didn’t do anything but stare until well after the last shot was fired. One woman who was near the shooter even climbed over everyone in her pew screaming on her way out the door after the shooting had ended. What if they had been prepared? What if the 12 or so people right next to the shooter had all jumped up and tackled the shooter the moment they realized what was happening?
These are just a few of the main things we noticed from this shooting. You may have seen other things that could have happened. Please let us know your thoughts!
The FBI, in their definition of an active shooter, includes that "Unlike a defined crime, such as a murder or mass killing, the active aspect inherently implies that both law enforcement personnel and citizens have the potential to affect the outcome of the event based upon their responses.” You have the potential to increase or decrease your chances of survival based upon your response to the situation. You have options when faced with this kind of tragic event. You must become aware of your options and practice them so that you can affect change in these situations. If you are responsible for a group of people, you should help get them prepared as well. If you need advice on how to do that, feel free to contact us.
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Author: Daniel Seguin - Communications Director | Lead Trainer