Violent Intruder Response
Some organizations call an “active killer” an “active shooter,” but Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman emphasizes that the distinction is important. The police or victims may also be shooting when the incident is occurring, but it is only the intruder who is an “active killer” (McKay, 2014).
Murders have been prevalent in Christian churches for years, but the number of incidents is increasing. Since 1999, Carl Chinn, a foremost leader in church security, has been tracking deadly force deaths and other related incidents in Christian churches throughout the United States. Chinn (2016) recorded 626 people killed (including intruder suicide) and 694 people injured between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2015. More than half of those deaths occurred in the five years between 2011 and 2015 (Chinn, 2016).
One of the worst church shootings in recent history occurred on June 17, 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Around 9 pm, 21-year-old Dylann Roof joined twelve churchgoers in a Bible study. Initially he participated very little in the meeting; however as the church members started to share scripture he began to argue with them (CNN, 2015). Then during the closing prayer he pulled a Glock .45-caliber model 41 and started shooting (CNN, 2015; Sanchez & Payne, 2015). During the shooting church members pleaded with him to stop. He swore at them and used racially charged language (CNN, 2015). By the time he was done, nine people were dead and one was injured (Costa, Bever, Freedom du Lac, and Horwitz, 2015). He was arrested the next morning during a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina approximately 250 miles from the church (Costa, Bever, Freedom du Lac, and Horwitz, 2015).
Another well-known church shooting occurred on December 9, 2007 at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In this shooting, 24-year-old Matthew Murray killed four people in two locations (Nicholson, 2008; “U.S. Church Gunman,” 2007). The fatality rate would have been much higher if it weren’t for Jeanne Assam, a former police officer who volunteered as a security guard (“U.S. Church Gunman,” 2007). Assam shot Murray multiple times, “which put him down. He then fired a single round killing himself” (“U.S. Church Gunman,” 2007).
When you examine all deadly force incidents you’ll see there are numerous circumstances surrounding these deaths. Churches need to be alert to the possibility of dangerous incidents occurring. Most violent incidents are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Safety ministries need to plan and train so they will be prepared to deal with the situation until law enforcement arrives. Sheepdog Church Security can help you plan for violent intruders.
Important Terms to Remember
Let’s start with some definitions.
A subject who uses a firearm and possibly explosives to kill as many people as they can in a building or populated area. These killers are unpredictable and generally have no pattern to their selection of victims (United States Department of Homeland Security [DHS], 2008, p. 2). Their activity evolves quickly. They often do not stop until police or another armed person confronts them (DHS, 2008, p. 2).
A term used to describe anything that will stop bullets. Examples of cover include a cinder block wall or many layers of metal and wood.
A term used to describe anything that will hide a person from view. Examples of cover include large plants, interior walls (sheetrock does not stop bullets), and office furniture.
Is a person or location that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to terrorist attack. Churches are soft targets for a number of reasons:
- Churches stand for a religious truth many find narrow minded and offensive.
- Churches are open to the public with open access to anybody during services.
- Church service times are publicly known or easy to find online and elsewhere.
- A number of churches in the United States are gun-free zones. They may not recognize their own vulnerability.
- Most churches have no Safety/Security Ministry.
Is when the deadly force threat is outside the building, so only the exterior doors are locked to keep them from entering.
Is when the shooter is in the building and/or the interior rooms are secured with people sheltering inside them.
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