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The 2009 First Baptist Church of Maryville Shooting

Lessons Learned from a Church Shooting

The 2009 First Baptist Church of Maryville Shooting

From the Bible

And Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his brethren, of the house of his father, the Korahites, were over the work of the service, keepers of the gates of the tabernacle: and their fathers, being over the host of the Lord, were keepers of the entry (1 Chronicles 9:17-19).

And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother (2 Samuel 3:27).

But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh ... And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into [King Eglon's] belly (Judges 3:16, 21).


When someone you don't know comes in, you don't know his or her intentions. That person may be curious, be seeking help, be here to help, intend to hurt someone, or have some other motive. So how can you be open and ready to help, yet still be prepared to protect?

Special Resources

The two special resources for this month are the Reports and Forms Bundle and the Safety Team Fundamentals module in the Safety Member Certification program.

Reports and Forms Bundle

A fundamental issue of any service organization, especially a ministry, is accountability. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Provide things honest in the sight of all men" (Romans 12:17b). Accurate records are a vehicle for accountability, for instance:

The Reports and Forms Bundle by Sheepdog Church Security has the templates for three reports and two logs:

You can get it now by clicking *HERE*. This is also an item that is included with the Safety Member Certification program.

Safety Member Certification

The Safety Member Certification program is the Sheepdog Church Security Training Academy with the Certification Tests. A person taking all the training modules and passing the certification test for each will receive a two-year Safety Member Certification. Safety Team Fundamentals is the first of the seven modules in the Academy.[2]

Enrollment in the program is available for both teams and individuals.

The Training Academy is also available in live Zoom classes. The next semester begins on February 6, 2022:

The Stranger Brought Danger

The First Baptist Church of Maryville, Illinois (FBCM), is on a two-lane state highway on the east end of the village, just a block from the city of Troy. It moved there after Dr. Fred Winters became its pastor in 1987 and it outgrew the building it had occupied near the center of town. By 2009, membership had grown from 32 to over 1,200. A farm is still across the road, but urban development is expanding that direction.

After 8 am Sunday morning, March 8, 2009, a red Jeep came from Troy and pulled into the parking lot. The driver parked the Jeep and went in as the first of three worship services was in session. He was a stranger, someone no one present knew. He walked past people in the foyer and into the sanctuary. Seeing the pastor on the platform, he came down the aisle, passing those already seated. At first they thought this was the beginning of a skit to illustrate the morning's message.

Down front, he spoke to Dr. Winters, who replied. No one else could hear well enough to know what either man said. The stranger pulled out a .45 caliber pistol and fired four shots. Winters held his Bible up in front of the gun.

The first shot sent a cloud of confetti flying. Some people thought this was a special effect, but it wasn't. One of the four bullets passed through Winter's heart. He ran up the aisle, soon collapsing and dying between pews.

The shooter tried to fire again, but the gun jammed. He dropped the gun and pulled out a knife. Two members of the congregation stormed him, knocking him down. In the melee, all three men were cut, the shooter most seriously. He and one of the tacklers had to be hospitalized. Only God knows how many more would have been killed if the gun had not jammed.

The Lyme-Impaired Schizophrenic

The shooter was a 27-year-old male who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 18. That's not when he acquired the disorder, but when it had developed to the point where it could be diagnosed. Most schizophrenics reach that point sometime between 17 and 22. It is diagnosed more often in men than in women. When diagnosed early enough, it can be manageable through counseling and medication.

Like other disorders, schizophrenia has degrees of severity. It also varies in the kinds of expressions. What is basic to most cases is a distortion of reality. The assailant who nearly killed President Reagan was a delusional schizophrenic who sought to make himself important enough to attract a certain celebrity. Paranoid schizophrenics are always thinking someone is out to get them. They may act aggressively in perceived self-defense. Some behaviors are totally irrational, with absolutely no discernable logic.

The shooter's schizophrenia was complicated by Lyme Disease, which he got from a tick bite. The disease caused lesions on his brain. In an interview months before the shooting, his mother said the lesions made it harder for him to communicate, caused erratic behavior, and created memory lapses. After the shooting, he had no recollection of it.

There is no record of why he went to the First Baptist Church. We can surmise that was because it was in a highly visible location on a frequently travelled route, therefore a target of opportunity. Also, whether by intent or by coincidence, the shooter arrived when it was open at 8 am that day. We do not know what, if anything, he had heard about the church.

The shooter had no record of arrests or police responses, so on that score he was off the radar and not on anyone's watch list. I did not find any record of where or how he got the pistol.


The first expected reaction was shock and sorrow. That evening, a standing-room-only community prayer service was held at a church in nearby Edwardsville. The tragedy made headlines and breaking news bulletins across the country, even internationally.

The shooter was arrested. Following his release from the hospital, he was arraigned and indicted. He was unable to stand trial, so a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity. This made him a permanent ward of the state's Department of Human Services. He is being held in secure mental health facilities.

The church found an interim pastor to fill in while they searched for a new senior pastor. Less than a year later, the interim pastor, Dr. Tom Hufty, was chosen as the new senior pastor, which he still is today. The church has since grown in membership. Dr. Hufty has presided over an expansion of facilities, including a larger worship center and the Maryville Christian School.

At the time of the shooting, FBCM had been developing security plans. No details of the plans were reported, but the police chief, who was working with them, said persons in the congregation with law enforcement and medical experience had been identified and plans were made for responding to active shooters and medical emergencies. The church still keeps its plans confidential, obviously for security reasons. It seems reasonable to assume that their safety & security plans have been implemented and take into consideration lessons from the incident of March 9, 2009.

Lesson Learned: Watch the Gate

The outstanding fact of the 2009 shooting at the First Baptist Church of Maryville is that the assailant was a total stranger with a handgun in his pocket. There were no security alert bulletins from the police with a photo. No wanted posters someone might have seen.

At any time after he entered the sanctuary, the stranger could have pulled out the firearm and started shooting. As it was, he went straight to the pastor, who was killed. The only way he could have been stopped would have been to keep him from coming in. The place to stop him would have been the gate (the door).

A security plan begins at the gate and the door. The "gate" is where people and vehicles come onto the property (for some urban churches this might be the front steps), and the door is where they come into the building. Members of the Safety Team should be observant of people coming in and those already in the foyer/lobby/welcome center.

Be alert for signs that someone may have questionable intentions or may be dangerously unstable. Often observable behavior is enough to arouse concern or suspicion. Other clues are in the way a person stands, facial expressions, a pale or flush face, sweatiness when it is cool, etc.

It also includes indications that the person is carrying a concealed weapon. This may be a suspicious bulge from a handgun in a pocket or a shotgun or rifle under a coat. Backpacks are always something of concern. At FBCM, the shooter had a .45 caliber pistol. This is larger than an 11mm gun, and even a 7mm tends to show a bulge if in a pocket. In a holster, a .45 is still hard to completely conceal unless the user wears a heavy coat.

Ideally, greeters and ushers should be also trained to be alert to potential problems among the people they see and encounter. After all, they are usually the first ones to see attendees up close.

In 2008, Tina Lewis Rowe, a church security expert, published a booklet (which has been updated several times since), Security Concerns For Churches: The Role Of Greeters and Ushers. It mentions several church shootings, including the one at FBCM. She notes that greeters are the first line of security, which is a role they now commonly fill in many churches. This book includes signs to look for, what to further observe in a suspicious person, and what to do when you determine that the person is a threat. One line on the "Greeter/Usher Security Checklist" is, "Do I have a plan for how I can separate a suspicious person from other people in the lobby or sanctuary?"


If you stop a killer at the gate, he won't be inside when it is too late.

There Is More

December has four articles. The other three are "To Keep the Flock Safe and Secure" (What Is Church Safety and Security?), "Know What You Face" (Assessing Risk), and "Building on a Foundation" (The Basics of a Church Safety Team).


Sheepdog Church Security Resources

  1. Kris Moloney, "Reports and Forms Bundle," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2015 [].
  2. Kris Moloney, "Complete Training Program v4," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  3. Kris Moloney, "Safety Member Team Certification," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  4. Kris Moloney, "Safety Member Individual Certification," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].

News Stories and Other Sources

  1. Elizabeth Donald, "‘We have all lost': Man who shot Maryville pastor found not guilty by reason of insanity," Belleville News-Democrat, JULY 03, 2015 [].
  2. Jim Suhr, "Authorities charge man in Illinois church shooting," Taiwan News, March 10, 2009 [].
  3. Jonathan Oosting and Lindsey Tanner, "Police: Illinois pastor deflected first gunshot with Bible during church shooting," Michigan Live, March 09, 2009, Updated: April 04, 2019 [].
  4. By Fox News staff (the Associated Press contributed to this report), "Pastor Killed, 2 Hurt in Illinois Church Shooting," Fox News, March 9, 2009, last update January 14, 2015 [].
  5. News staff, "Authorities charge man in Illinois church shooting," NewsChannel10, March 9, 2009 [].
  6. Sanford J. Schmidt, "‘Psychotic' killer of Maryville pastor denied freedom inside Alton facility, judge orders his family to stop contacting victim's family," The Edwardsville Intelligencer, December 17, 2018 [].
  7. B. Tucker, "FBCM names its new pastor," The Edwardsville Intelligencer, December 8, 2010 [].
  8. Anon, "Church pastor killed during service, police say," CNN, March 8, 2009 [].
  9. Ashley Fantz, Emanuella Grinberg, and Brad Lendon, "Churches need security plans, experts say," CNN, March 9, 2009 [].
  10. Mike Terry, "Experts: Shooting suspect's history should have caused concerns: Murder serves as warning about addressing mental illness." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 14, 2009 [].
  11. Ken West, "Day of service continues slain Maryville pastor's legacy: Slain pastor's wife organizes projects," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 11, 2011 [].
  12. Terry Hillig, "Judge orders new exam of accused killer of Maryville minister," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 11, 2011 [].
  13. Tina Lewis Rowe, "Security Concerns For Churches: The Role Of Greeters and Ushers," The River Conference, 2008 with later revisions [].