Black and white Sound Cloud icon Black and white YouTube icon Black and white LinkedIn icon Black and white Facebook icon

1988 Calvary Baptist Church Shooting

Lesson Learned from a Church Shooting

Man with a gun in a church

An article based on the Safety Member Certification training module "Active Shooter Response"[1]

From the Bible

For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance (Proverbs 6:34).

For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one (Job 5:2).

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones (Proverbs 14:30).

... jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame (Song of Solomon 8:6b).

Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy? (Proverbs 27:4).


Jealousy and anger are emotions which are not always justified. For instance, there is no right to be jealous of something or someone which is not really yours, therefore anger arising from this kind of jealousy is not justified. However, a person may become jealous when they mistakenly believe someone is (or should be) theirs. This seems to be the motive in this case.

Videocast and Show Notes

Kris Moloney discusses this incident in a Sheepdog Church Security Academy videocast on YouTube - the audio is in a Church Security Roll Call podcast. He gives special attention to the lesson learned. This is informed by his military, law enforcement, and church security experience.

Below the video screen is a link to the Church Shooting Lessons Learned Download - the Show Notes (article summary). It is available for this article until the next Lesson Learned videocast is posted.[2][3]

An Explosive Return

It was Sunday morning, March 6, 1988, in Emporia, Kansas. The worship service at Calvary Baptist Church was in progress. The singing of "Like a River Glorious" was interrupted. A man with a duffel bag had come in through a side door, put on ear protectors, and pulled out a handgun. An usher turned toward him to offer a bulletin, but was answered with gunfire. The shot missed and the usher ducked behind a pillar. The assailant fired more shots into the sanctuary, hitting five persons. One of the five wounded persons, a deacon, died with a bullet to the heart. Others were shot at, but not wounded.

When the magazine was empty, the shooter tried to reload - ironically, there was another gun in the bag with a full clip inserted. A church member, Jerry Waddell, took advantage of this lull, charging the shooter. The assailant turned and ran for the door and into the street. Waddell threw a hymnal, hitting him in the back of the head, then tackled him. Two other men joined in holding the shooter down, one taking the gun away. The downed assailant asked something like, "Don't you know me?" This ended the shooting.

Failed Infatuation

The 29-year old killer was an immigrant from Taiwan, the son of a police officer. He had served in the Taiwanese army. He came to the United States to further his education. In 1984, he graduated from Emporia State University with a Masters of Business Administration.

In 1983 he met a young woman in Emporia through her work and attended two Bible classes with her, and also attended a few services. He was infatuated with her, and asked her to marry him and go with him to Taiwan to care for his aging parents. She declined. After graduating, he went to California to work. He also briefly lived and worked on the East Coast.

All this time, the sting of a rejected marriage proposal festered. His resentment fell on her church, a very conservative independent Baptist Church, which he blamed for her not marrying him. Even without her testimony, we can still say it appears that she did not marry him because he was not a Christian, and she did not want to be "unequally yoked."

Some may think brooding over a rejection is a sign of mental illness. However, it is common for young men to take a romantic disappointment hard, even when there was no interest from the other person. Many times it is an obsession which is broken only by a new relationship. Right now, we do not know of any other romantic interest this man may have had in those four years he lived elsewhere. News stories did not name the woman, but did say she married someone else and was still living in Emporia at the time of the shooting. The shooter may have thought she would be in the church when he arrived and experience his revenge.

The Impact

One person died, a deacon. The other wounded persons recovered from their injuries. Jerry Waddell was hailed as a hero for stopping the shooter. It seems providential that the assailant, a military veteran, forgot the second loaded weapon and tried to reload the first. This gave someone time to rush him. There is a lesson here for us (see below).

This incident had an international impact. The shooter's father came here from Taiwan. He and the Taiwan ambassador went to Emporia to make a public apology for his son's actions. It was a sincere apology with no excuses.

Calvary Baptist Church in Emporia, KS, is still well attended. One survivor of the attack, the daughter of the slain deacon, said years later that she is a firm supporter of the Second Amendment.

The shooter was indicted, tried, and convicted for first degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and attempted murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. The trial was delayed by sanity determinations. The first one was for his competence to stand trial. The second was whether an insanity plea was valid. He was ruled competent, and the insanity plea was ruled not applicable in this case, considering the wording of Kansas law. There was at least one appeal considered by the Kansas Supreme Court. The conviction and the sentence were affirmed.

Lesson Learned: Watch at All Times

First, remember that this was in 1988, when only a very few churches would have had security teams.

It had been almost four years since the shooter had been to the church a few times. There was no way they could know that he would travel from California to Emporia to act out his jealous rage. The lesson learned is to watch at all times, including when services or classes are in session. If a Church Safety Team member had been on duty in the back during the service, he might have stopped the shooting before it started. Here's one way how:

First, all doors other than the main entry would have been locked. The gunman could not have used the side door without attracting unwanted attention. Therefore, he would have had to come to the main door.

If the main door had been locked and monitored during the service, someone, preferably the team member, would have responded. He or she would have seen the duffel bag, which would have raised concern.

Let's say the man is let in and sets the bag down. The security team member asks, "What's in the bag?" Suppose the man says, "I'll show you," and reaches into the bag. He is watched. If he pulls out the hearing protectors, that would be a red flag, so that's not a good choice for him. The security person is standing close enough to knock a gun out of his hand if he draws it out. Of course, this visitor does not want to simply open the bag and show what's in it.

If there is nothing as conspicuous as a duffel bag and the intruder pulls out a concealed weapon, a safety team member can immediately rush him before he has time to shoot. Anything open and handy, such as a hymnal, can be used as a weapon. Pulling out a gun when the other person already has one out will take too much time and could cost a life, as happened at West Freeway Church of Christ.[6]

If the visitor just takes his bag and leaves, he creates more suspicion. The rest of the Safety Team has been alerted, and he is watched as he goes to his vehicle. Now they have descriptions of both the suspect and his vehicle. Police are on the way, since 911 has been called.


Watch the entry at all times, before services, during services, and after services. Be alert to signs of violent intent and weapons. Violent intruders may come in at any time.

Training Notes

Watching for likely violent intruders is only one aspect of church safety. There are several others, as can be seen just from the list of training modules in the Safety Member Certification program (see chart below). This is why a Church Safety Team needs to have all its members trained and certified.

The training is available in three formats: Team Certification (church-hosted classes), Individual Certification (self-paced online instruction), and Online Events (live Zoom classes).

Team Certification trains the whole team at once. This is a good way to train a new team, and also for renewing certification every two years.

Individual Certification trains a new member to an existing team without a months-long wait. It can also be used by a member not able to attend a class.

Online Events is open to both individuals and groups. These classes are held on Sunday afternoons at 3:00 pm Central Time. Quarter 3 of the 2022-2023 school year has ended and Quarter 4 begins on March 26, 2023, with "Safety Team Fundamentals." "Active Shooter Response" will be taught on April 2. The final class, "Mass Trauma Emergencies," is on June 4. The next school year begins in September.[1]

Color coding:

Related to Article







Training Module


Sep 11

Nov 13

Jan 29

Mar 26

Safety Team Fundamentals


Sep 18

Nov 20

Feb 5

Apr 2

Active Shooter Response


Sep 25

Dec 4

Feb 12

Apr 16

Deescalating Disruptive Persons


Oct 2

Dec 11

Feb 19

Apr 23

Protecting Children from Abuse


Oct 9

Dec 18

Feb 26

Apr 30

Basic Use of Force Laws


Oct 16

Jan 8

Mar 5

May 7

Arson and Fire Safety


Oct 23

Jan 15

Mar 12

May 21

Storms and Disasters


Nov 6

Jan 22

Mar 19

Jun 4

Mass Trauma Emergencies

Another training resource is the Church Security Guide. The last of the nine articles is "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training."[4][5]

Up Next

The next article is "This Is Abuse" (Understanding Sexual Abuse).


Sheepdog Church Security Resources

  1. Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Response," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, YouTube [].
  3. Kris Moloney, Church Security Roll Call, SoundCloud [].
  4. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  5. Kris Moloney, "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  6. WGV, "2019 West Freeway Church of Christ Shooting," Articles, Sheepdog Church Security, September 6, 2022 [].

News Stories

  1. Anon, "News at a Glance," UPI, March 7, 1988 [].
  2. Anon, "Man Charged in Church Shooting; Reportedly Was Spurned By Former Member," AP, March 7, 1988 [].
  3. Gazette staff talking with Jerry Waddell, "‘It did happen here'," The Emporia Gazette, Apr 19, 2007 [].
  4. Katherine Burgess, "Kansas man recalls saving Emporia church in 1988 shooting," CJOnline (The Topeka Capital-Journal), December 8, 2017 [].
  5. The Associated Press, "Survivor of Emporia church shooting a gun advocate: Woman's father died in 1988 shooting," CJOnline (The Topeka Capital-Journal), January 17, 2013 [].
  6. Bobbi Mlynar, "Terror in Emporia: 30 years later," The Emporia Gazete, March 6, 2018 [].
  7. Anon, Facebook post, Strategos International, Facebook, March 8, 2018 [].
  8. Supreme Court of Kansas, "STATE OF KANSAS, Appellee, v. CHEUN-PHON JI, Appellant" Justia, Opinion filed May 22, 1992 [].