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2014 Double Springs Community Church Shooting

Lesson Learned from a Church Shootinge

Man holding a gun in a church

This article goes with the Safety Member Certification training module "Active Shooter Response."[1]

From the Bible

Since ancient times, people have gone into hiding and/or locked doors to protect themselves from threats:

And Jonathan told David, “Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself” (1 Samuel 19:2).

... Shemaiah ... said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night” (Nehemiah 6:10)

“Yet you, O Lord, know all their plotting to kill me..." (Jeremiah 18:23).

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews ... (John 20:19a).

And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer (Acts 12:13).


If threatened, it is only natural to lock the house when home. It is also natural to lock your car doors when driving through a dangerous city or neighborhood. If you are personally threatened, it only makes sense to lock the doors wherever you are or avoid being alone in a place you cannot lock.

Videocast and Podcast

This article is the topic of a Sheepdog Church Security Academy videocast on YouTube. The audio is on a Church Security Roll Call podcast. Kris discusses the subject using his experience in the military, law enforcement, and church security.[2][3]


Cookeville is a small city in Putnam County, Tennessee. There are many unincorporated communities around the city with Cookeville mailing addresses. One of these is Double Springs. Double Springs Community Church is one of four in the community bearing the Double Springs name (the others are Baptist, Church of Christ, and Presbyterian). It is a small non-denominational church with no Facebook page and no website. From its location, where Church Street meets Double Springs Road, it apparently sits on the site of an early church in the community.

The Interruption

Early Sunday morning, February 2, 2014, two sisters, both 61, met at the Double Springs Community Church near Cookeville, Tennessee. There in the basement they began getting things ready for the morning worship service. One sister was a long-time member of the church. The other began coming more recently, after separating from her husband. He had threatened to kill her, but she felt safe here with her sister. Her husband belonged to a church in nearby Bloomington Springs, where he was expected to be today. The two sisters were alone in the church at this moment.

Sometime before 9:00, the one sister's estranged husband entered the church. He went to the basement where his wife and her sister were busy. He confronted his wife, and they got into an altercation. He pulled out a handgun. She knocked it away, and he grabbed it again, His sister-in-law joined the fight, trying to protect her sister. In the struggle, the gun fired, hitting the sister-in-law in the abdomen. She managed to get up the stairs and as far as the front door before she collapsed. The man remained in the basement while his wife called 911. The time was 9:05.

Responding officers from a county SWAT team arrived. They moved the wounded woman to safety, then entered the church. The wife directed them downstairs. They found her husband in the basement, dead from a self-inflicted wound.

EMTs arrived, treated the wounded woman and took her to the hospital.

Trouble at Home

The husband came from a family of twelve children, six boys and six girls. Two of his brothers and three of his sisters had already died. One of the shooter's brothers was married to one of his wife's sisters.

The couple had four sons, seven grandchildren, and a great-grandchild, leaving seventeen family members to grieve his death. He was a supervisor at a food processing plant. Aged 65, he hadn't yet retired.

This was a classic case of domestic violence spilling over into the community. Physical abuse was the reason for the separation. As in so many other cases like it, the offender went after the victim after separation. He knew she would be with her sister at Double Springs Community Church before others arrived. He also knew that his sister-in-law would leave the church unlocked while preparing for the service. What he did not plan on was his intended victim being the survivor.


The shooter died by suicide in the church basement. Services were cancelled for that day. His sister-in-law died a week later in the hospital.

Double Springs Community Church is still in operation nine years later, and with the same pastor,. The church does not have a Facebook page or a website. The only contact listed, besides the mailing address, is a phone number.

The church of which the shooter was a member is no longer open under the same name. The congregation may have merged with another in the area, affiliated with another denomination, moved to a different location and changed its name, or dissolved.

Lesson Learned: Lock Doors

Lock the doors when there are only a few persons in the church, especially when they are not in the foyer where they can keep an eye on the door. Having the doors unlocked does make it more convenient for other church members coming in a bit early. When you keep the doors locked, let everyone know to ring the doorbell until there can be a greeter or safety team member attending the door.

Since one sister's estranged husband threatened to kill her, a locked door was more urgent. Someone of that mindset may leave other obligations to carry out a threat. This is especially so when that person is suicidal.

Establish a church policy of the church door being locked when there are few occupants and the door is not attended. This means during office hours, when someone is cleaning the church, and before and after regular meetings. Have someone attend the door when it is unlocked or propped open.


When no one is attending the door to the church, lock it. This is even more important when someone is being threatened.

Training Notes

Training is important for keeping the church safe and secure. There are eight training modules (classes) in the Safety Team Certification program. All Church Safety Team members should enroll in this program and be certified.

Since this article is about a church shooting, "Active Shooter Response" obviously applies. The lesson learned in this case is also referred to in "Safety Team Fundamentals," so that module also applies. It says that churches are often seen as easy targets for attacks because they are open to the public and often unlocked. It also says to see that doors are locked while on patrol.

There are three training formats to choose from:

Team Certification (church-hosted classes) are best for training an entire team at once, such as when starting a safety ministry or re-certification.

Individual Certification (self=paced online instruction) is a good way to train a new Safety Team member instead of waiting months - or a year - for classes. It can also be used for a team member who is unable to attend a class.

Online Events (live Zoom classes) are open to both groups and individuals. They are held at 3 PM Central Time on Sundays. Kris Moloney is the instructor. He has long military, law enforcement and church security experience.

The 2022-2023 Online Events school year has four quarters. It is now midway in Quarter 4. The next class is "Protecting Children from Abuse" on April 24. Students who enroll now have a year to complete the program, which means that they can continue when the 2023-2024 school year begins in September. They also can complete the training through Individual Certification or Team Certification (when available).

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 option is auditing. This is taking one or more classes not for credit as part of the program, but to train for an area in which they are involved. "Active Shooter Response," "Arson and Fire Safety," and "Storms and Disasters" are recommended for auditing by ushers and greeters.

Up Next

"What about This?" (Selected questions from FAQs on Dru Sjodin website) is the next article.


Sheepdog Church Security Resources

  1. Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Response v4," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, YouTube [].
  3. Kris Moloney, Church Security Roll Call, SoundCloud [].

News Sources

  1. WBIR Staff, "Man dead, woman injured in Cookeville church shooting," WBIR, February 2, 2014 [].
  2. Anita Wadhwani, "Update: Man shoots sister-in-law at church, commits suicide," The Tennesseean, February 2, 2014 [].
  3. By Associated Press, "Tennessee man kills himself at church," Chattanooga Times Free Press, February 3, 2014 [].
  4. UPI Writers, "Man wounds woman in Tennessee church basement, kills self," UPI, February 2, 2014 [].
  5. Anon, "Sheriff: Man kills himself in church basement," WBBJ TV, February 3, 2014 [].
  6. WBIR Staff, "Woman shot in Cookeville church dies," WBIR, February 8, 2014, Updated February 10, 2014 [].
  7. Anon, "Church shooting leaves two dead," WLBT, February 3, 2014, Updated February 10, 2014 [].
  8. Associated Press, "Church shooting in Tennessee: Woman dies days after saving sister," Johnson City Press, February 9, 2014, Updated June 24, 2020 [].
  9. Lest Forgotten, "Etta B Smith Medley" (includes obituary), Find-a-Grave, November 16, 2020 [].
  10. Anon, "Tommy Ray Meadows," Obituaries, Anderson Upper Cumberland Funeral Home, Inc, Tribute Archive, February 4, 2014 [].