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2014 Word Tabernacle Church Shooting

Mountain Man Medical

Man Holding a Firearm in a Church

An article based on the training module “Active Shooter Response” in the Safety Member Certification program and the Church Security Guide article “Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training.”[1][2][3]

From the Bible

The Bible has accounts of sudden violent attacks: 

Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door ... (Judges 19:22a). 

But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died, and the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah (2 Kings 25:25). 

Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, “Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, ‘Smite Amnon;’ then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? Be courageous, and be valiant.” And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded ... (2 Samuel 13:28-29a). 


Long before 2014, security in some neighborhoods of big cities was problematic, even for churches. In the early 1990s our pastor told about his visit to a church on the South Side of Chicago. The parking lot had a high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire and was locked during services to prevent auto theft and vehicle burglary. 

For at least three generations, major cities have been plagued with violent juvenile gangs. This is not confined to urban areas with millions of people. Interstate 95 has become a drug-trafficking corridor of the East Coast, and cities along this highway with populations of less than 100,000 have gang activity. Rocky Mount, North Carolina, with a population less than 60,000, is one of these. Churches in cities such as these need to enact security measures that cover the entire extent of their properties. 

Videocast and Lesson Learned Download

This shooting and the lesson learned from it are covered by Kris Moloney in a videocast on the YouTube channel Sheepdog Church Security Academy (the audio is on a Church Security Roll Call podcast). Below is a link to the free Lesson Learned Download. The link is for this article until the next Lesson Learned videocast is posted.[4][5] 

Another free download is Active Shooter Situation; a two-page PDF. The second page is an “Active Shooter Situation Checklist” which can be printed and posted in every room of the church. Click *HERE* to get it.[6] 

A Mission to Serve

Word Tabernacle Church was founded by a minister who moved to Rocky Mount from Philadelphia, PA, in 2005 to plant a church, beginning with 14 persons. Before being called to ministry, he had worked for companies at the corporate level. His ministry call includes serving inner-city populations. He desires to help youth in the church’s neighborhood. 

The church grew, and they bought a church building on Nashville Road and Calvary Street. The property includes an older church building back-to-back facing the next street (Paul St) which became the Chapel at Word. 

More parking space was needed, so they purchased property on Calvary St. between Paul St. and the next street over (Edwards St.) and put in a parking lot. A house on this property became Word’s training center. It is two blocks from Edward St. to the front of the main church. There is a rear church entrance, making it half a block to the church from the west end of the parking lot on Paul Street. 

On the Edwards Street side of the parking lot are two basketball courts. These were for the benefit of neighborhood youth. One court can be seen from all windows of the classroom annex on the back of the main church. The other court can be seen from just over half of those windows. There is no fence between the basketball courts and the street or the parking lot as of 2022, so it’s easy to assume there were no fences in 2014. 

An Indiscriminate Attack

After school on Monday January 27, 2014, several neighborhood boys gathered at the basketball courts of the Word Tabernacle Church to play ball. Just before 6:00 PM a person wearing a ski mask walked up on the sidewalk and fired several shots (at least 15) into the crowd. Four of the boys, aged 12-19, were hit. The 12-year-old was hit in the head – into one eye and out the back of the head. The other boys were not wounded as seriously. The shooter ran down the street and into a waiting SUV, which sped away. 

The pastor of the church was in his office when he heard the shots. He said these were closer than those he’d heard before, and there were so many. He ran out the back door and over to the basketball courts. There he cradled the 12-year-old’s head in his arms until medics arrived. 

After the Gun Smoke Settled

Medics and police arrived in a short time. The four wounded boys were taken to hospitals. The teens were treated and released, but the 12-year-old was admitted in critical condition, Years later, after surgeries and therapy, he began improving, gaining functions. 

While police were working on identifying the shooter, many persons thought the motive might have been revenge for an earlier drive-by shooting. Thanks to witnesses and tips, a suspect was identified and arrested. He was 17, but charged as an adult. Convicted in May 2015 on four counts of attempted first degree murder and sentenced to 16 years and 9 months, he is in prison. So far, he has had six infractions in prison, including one this year. 

In February 2014, hundreds of persons met at the Word Tabernacle Church. They wanted to know why gun violence was rising in Rocky Mount. Less than nine days before the church shooting, a teen was killed in a drive-by shooting about two miles away. Several contributing factors were put forward: poverty, fatherlessness, unemployment, gangs, etc. As to gangs, in Rocky Mount these were neighborhood gangs, and the gangs rivalled each other. 

The Word Tabernacle pastor shared his involvement with community leaders. He said they were already coming together to mentor young people, to have responsible adults father the fatherless.

Later in 2014, the leaders of Word Tabernacle Church were dealing with lack of capacity. There was little room for expansion on their Nashville Road site. The Home Depot in Rocky Mount had closed in 2011, and the property was still available. In 2015, Word Tabernacle purchased the Home Depot building and converted one end to a new sanctuary. 

The property was renamed “Impact Center.” Other services of the church were opened in the building. One of these is Reach, which serves members of the community. This includes a daycare and a youth activity center. The outdoor segments are in the former lumber and garden areas of Home Depot with a 15-foot high fence and 6-foot screens. 

Security cameras are not conspicuous, but a few seem to show on Google Maps’ street view. There are warning signs about the installed security system to serve as a deterrent to criminal activity. Word Tabernacle is now a megachurch with over 3,500 members. 

The former location of Word Tabernacle is now occupied by Greater Joy Baptist Church in the larger building and Apostolic Faith Church of God in the older one. 

The 12-year-old boy shot through the head is now 19. Two years after the shooting, he was partly paralyzed and still had speaking difficulty. Before the end of 2016 he was regaining some control of his legs. A video aired on PBS in March 2023 features him and his mother. Nyreek Horne was shot a half month after his 12th birthday. Two months later he showed signs of recovery. He has since graduated from Rocky Mount High School. He moves about in a motorized wheelchair and has a ready smile. Sadly, gang violence in Rocky Mount continues.

Lesson Learned: Protect the Entire Campus

This is a lesson that Word Tabernacle Church appears to have heeded: Protect the entire church campus. Obviously it is more feasible now on their present campus, the former Home Depot site. But how about a church in a neighborhood with a campus divided by a lot and a city street? 

The first option is to secure the main part of the campus, the site of the church building. 

The parking lot on the next block, which is half a block from the church at its closest, needs security too. Begin with a secure fence and gates. The parking lot in Rocky Mount does pose a problem here, because of a building on the block. This blocks half the parking lot from being seen from the main church building. However, the entire parking lot can be monitored from the house, and a security fence can encircle the entire parking lot and the house’s yard. 

There is a 4-foot high fence around the yard behind the house. The basketball courts appear to have been added after the parking lot was made. Since the house had belonged to Word Tabernacle when the courts were installed, they could have been placed in the yard behind the house and made more secure by a 10-foot security fence with slats through the chain link. It would also allow more parking spaces. This illustrates the importance of considering safety and security when planning property development. 

Outdoor places next to a street are harder to protect: 


Extend safety measures to all of the church’s campus, especially parts that are open to public use during the week. 

Training Notes

“Active Shooter Response” is one of eight Safety Member Certification training modules. All church safety teams are encouraged to have all their members trained and certified. Training is available in three formats: 

Another training medium is the Church Security Guide. Among its nine articles is “Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training.”[1][2][3]

On Deck

“A Calming Presence” (De-Escalating Tensions) is the article on deck for next week.


Sheepdog Church Security Resources

  1. Kris Moloney, “Active Shooter Response,” Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 []. 
  2. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 []. 
  3. Kris Moloney, “Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training,” Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 []. 
  4. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, YouTube []. 
  5. Kris Moloney, Church Security Roll Call, SoundCloud []. 
  6. Kris Moloney, “Active Shooter Situation,” Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 []. 
  7. News Accounts

  8. “Meet Our Pastor,” Word Tabernacle Church []. 
  9. Courier Newsroom, “4 shot at NC church; boy, 12, critically wounded,” New Pittsburgh Courier, January 28, 2014 []. 
  10. Daily Mail Reporter, “Boy, 12, shot in the head and three other children hurt by gunman who sprayed church playground with bullets,” Daily Mail, January 28, 2014 []. 
  11. Michael Biesecker, “4 Shot at Rocky Mount, NC Church; Boy, 12, Critically Wounded” AFRO, January 28, 2014 []. 
  12. WRAL Staff, “Teen in critical condition after shooting at Rocky Mount basketball court,” WRAL, January 28, 2014 []. 
  13. WCNC Staff, “Teen arrested in Rocky Mount church shooting,” WCNC, January 31, 2014 []. 
  14. WSOC Staff, “Teen arrested in Rocky Mount church shooting,” WSOC-TV, January 31, 2014 []. 
  15. Ashley Jacobs, Teen arrested in Rocky Mount church shooting,” January 31, 2014 []. 
  16. Rebecca Martinez, “Rocky Mount Community Gathers To Brainstorm After Teen Shootings,” WUNC / North Carolina Public Radio, February 17, 2014 []. 
  17. WRAL Staff, “Rocky Mount searches for youth violence answers after five teens shot,” WRAL, February 17, 2014, Updated February 18, 2014 []. 
  18. From Contributed Reports, “Word Tabernacle adds two new centers,” Rocky Mount Telegram, August 21, 2019 []. 
  19. Jeff Reeves, “Cutting-edge technology helps Rocky Mount police fight crime,” CBS17, November 11, 2016 []. 
  20. Tamika Horne, “A Mother’s Plea to End Violence,” PBS North Carolina, March 3, 2023 [].