From the Bible
Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, And said unto him, “Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee?” But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not. […] Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah. Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land. Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war. (Jeremiah 40:13-14; 41:1-3)
Have you ever wished you had heeded a warning? What were the consequences? Are you still living with the consequences? Obviously, it didn’t result in your death, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
If you received a credible warning of violence in the church, would you know what to do and have the resources to do it? The role of a Church Safety Ministry is to protect the flock from a variety of threats, whether severe weather, a fire, a hazardous materials spill, criminal activity, deadly violence, or any of several others.
So, if your church does not have a Church Safety Ministry, how do you start one? Our special free download is Practical Steps to Start a Safety Ministry. Following a description of the six steps is a DIY “Church Safety/Security Ministry Security Assessment.” The questions on this 28-page form help you evaluate how safe your church is, beginning with the building(s) and grounds and ending with how the Safety Team has been trained. Click HERE to get it. If you’re not already subscribed, you’ll be signed up for the weekly update and the monthly newsletter, The Church Guardian.
The featured product is the Complete Training Program v4. It has the downloadable training materials for classroom instruction. All seven training courses are included:
- Security Team Fundamentals
- Active Shooter Response
- Deescalating Disruptive Persons
- Protecting Children from Abuse
- Use of Force Laws
- Arson and Fire Safety
- Severe Weather and Natural Disasters
Right now, Kris is conducting Zoom classes, one every two weeks. The goal is to get all the team members ready to take the Sheepdog Certification tests.
“I told you …”
Usually about 20 members attended Sunday morning services at the Ministry of Jesus Christ (MoJC) in a small rented hall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. However on May 21, 2006, only six to eight closely-related adults and less than a dozen children were present. They did not know that this would be their church’s last service.
Late in the service, the pastor’s son-in-law came in. His wife had left him the day before after a violent argument – by far not the first. Responding sheriff’s deputies advised the wife to file for a restraining order. She said she’d do that when the county offices opened on Monday. The previous year, she had secured a restraining order, but withdrew it. Relatives described the relationship as “on and off.” He had an unstable work history, was a gambler, and reportedly was unfaithful.
The man asked to speak, and the pastor consented. He said he was sorry and begged his wife to come back. “No,” was the answer. Even if she forgave him, she wouldn’t come back. He left the room and paced outside. Someone went to check on him, then returned.
The man left, but returned when the service was ending. The pastor heard her mother saying, “Please, don’t shoot,” followed by the sound of gunfire. Five wounded persons lay on the floor, including the pastor. All of them were the man’s in-laws. She would be the only one of them to survive.
The man grabbed his wife. He was heard saying, “I told you I was going to do this.” After letting her say goodbye to her mother, he took her and their three children to a car and left. Hours later, police found him sitting on a curb holding his baby and crying. His wife was in the car, dead, a bullet hole in the back of her head. He had placed the gun in her hand to make it appear a suicide.
The pastor was shot in the back of the head, but recovered. Killed in the church were her parents, her aunt, and a cousin. Killed elsewhere was her daughter, the shooter’s wife. None of the children were physically injured.
As is to be expected, survivors of and responders to mass killings suffer long-lasting emotional and mental trauma. The pastor and her husband took in their grandchildren, the sons of the killer and his wife. These young ones had witnessed the murder of their mother and other relatives. In an interview with a local station almost two years later, the pastor said that they cry at night, the middle one was afraid “to go to the bathroom,” and the youngest called her “Mommy.”
No Longer Here
Apparently, the congregation may have never met again as a recognized religious organization unless they met in homes. A year after the killings, a local television station stated that the Ministry of Jesus Christ “has yet to resume services elsewhere.” Eleven years later, after the Sutherland Springs shooting, a Baton Rouge television news article reported on an interview with the husband of the MoJC pastor. The author/newscaster stated, “The church on Dallas Drive in Baton Rouge has been closed since.” However, when asked how his wife was, her husband said, “She doing fine. She’s serving the Lord and being positive about things.”
Officially, the corporation was still on the books as of February 2016, almost ten years later. The Louisiana Secretary Of State Business Registration was still listing The Ministry of Jesus Christ at the same address with the same agent (the pastor), even though they had long-ago vacated that location. Evidently, after recovering from the wound, the pastor did not change the address on the listing. As of the 2012 tax year, the Ministry of Jesus Christ was listed on the NonProfitFacts.com website with the residential address of the pastor. That year there were no assets and no income reported.
The shooter was convicted of murder and sentenced to death almost two years later in East Baton Rouge Parish (EBRP). As the only survivor of those wounded, the pastor was the key witness. The EBRP Sheriff provided protection, even though there was no known gang involvement in the shooting. In that area, witnesses were often at risk. This case was used by prosecutors in pushing for the state to provide money for witness protection.
To date, the killer is still on death row in Louisiana. During the trial, he dismissed his public defenders and represented himself. He made lewd accusations while cross-examining his mother-in-law. He also claimed that his wife did all the shooting and took her own life.
After the trial he appealed the death penalty on various grounds, including mental retardation and mental illness. This went to the Supreme Court of Louisiana. In 2010, they found the grounds and evidence for his appeals to be insufficient and upheld both the conviction and the sentence. As of 2018, he was still unsuccessfully trying to appeal the sentence.
Lesson Learned: Take Warnings Seriously
Before the shootings, the killer had warned not only his wife, but another relative, that he would shoot people. Apparently like Gedaliah, they did not take the warning seriously, at least not seriously enough. This could be understandable if he had previously made threats, but did not carry them out. Nevertheless, when a person with a violent history makes a threat, take it seriously – this time it may be for real. In May 2006, it was.
When you take a warning seriously, decide what to do about it. Obviously, the Ministry of Jesus Christ did not have a safety/security team. However, considering the record of the husband, the latest threat he made, and that it was the day after a domestic altercation when emotions were still high, there was enough probable cause to ask for police protection. After all, the Sheriff’s office already had the report of the previous day’s incident.
For churches with a volunteer safety/security team:
- Report a threat/warning of deadly action to local law enforcement (even if the warning was delivered by a third party, not by the threatening person).
- Post a watch for the offender. Since this is a deadly threat/warning, give the greeters and team members the name and description of the person.
- Watch for hostile or suspicious activity outside.
- Lock all unattended doors. Lock the remaining one(s) after the service begins.
- If the offender is spotted, call 911.
- Don’t let the threatener in.
- Be prepared to engage an intended killer.
Take all threats seriously, especially if they qualify as warnings. It does not hurt to be ready, but the attack does not come. It can be devastating if a warning is ignored and it is for real.
There Is More
There are four other articles in August: “You've Been Audited!” [a current concern], “Banner On, Guns Down” [featured provider], “Basically Equipped” (Equipped to Serve: Part One), and “To Rescue and Defend” (Equipped to Serve: Part Two).
From Sheepdog Church Security
- Kris Moloney, “Steps to Start a Safety Ministry,” Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [https://sheepdog-church-security.ck.page/9c5f2d32cc].
- Kris Moloney, “Complete Training Program v4,” Sheepdog Church Security Training Courses, Training Bundles (Classroom), © 2020 [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/bundles/complete-church-security-training-system].
- Cheryl Mercedes, “Pastor Claudia Brown Talks EXCLUSIVELY with WAFB,” April 17, 2008, updates April 24, 2008 [https://www.wafb.com/story/8184624/pastor-claudia-brown-talks-exclusively-with-wafb/].
- Tyana Williams, “Baton Rouge Deadly Church Shooting Anniversary,” WAFB 9NEWS, May 21, 2007, Updated: May. 31, 2007 [https://www.wafb.com/story/6546399/baton-rouge-deadly-church-shooting-anniversary/].
- Earl Phelps, “Baton Rouge man recalls deadly 2006 church shooting,” NewsSource: WBRZ, November 06, 2017 [https://www.wbrz.com/news/baton-rouge-man-recalls-deadly-2006-church-shooting/].
- “The Ministry of Jesus Christ,” Louisiana Secretary of State Business Registration, Updated February 10, 2016 [https://www.bizapedia.com/la/the-ministry-of-jesus-christ.html].
- “Ministry Of Jesus Christ in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LA),” NonProfitFacts.com - Tax-Exempt Organizations, 2013 [http://www.nonprofitfacts.com/LA/Ministry-Of-Jesus-Christ.html].
- Jim Shannon, “Prosecutors push for better witness protection in criminal cases,” WAFB 9NEWS, April 23, 2008, updated April 23, 2008 [https://www.wafb.com/story/8212492/prosecutors-push-for-better-witness-protection-in-criminal-cases/].
- “STATE OF LOUISIANA v. ANTHONY BELL,” No. 2009-KA-0199, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Decided: November 30, 2010 [https://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-supreme-court/1546275.html].
- Staff, “Man Indicted on Killing Spree at La. Church,” AP News, June 16, 2006 [https://apnews.com/article/59e337f16ae7752eafcfcbcb59a5d7af AP News].
- Jeremy Alford, “5 Die in Church Shooting Spree,” New York Times, May 21, 2006 [https://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/22/us/22church.html].
- Jeremy Alford, (The New York Times), “5 Die in Church Shooting Spree,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 22, 206 [https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-2006-05-22-0605210197-story.html].
- Joe Gyan Jr., “No new trial for condemned killer Anthony Bell in 2006 BR killings, state high court says,” The Advocate, April 26, 2017 [https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/courts/article_d3aff50e-2a97-11e7-8eef-432babe88350.html].