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2015 Anna Prayer Center Stabbing

Lesson Learned from a Church Deadly-Force Attack

Kapap instructor demonstrates martial arts self defense knife attack disarming technique against threat and knife attack. Weapon retention and disarm training. Demonstration with a real metal knife

Based on the Safety Member Certification training module "Active Shooter Response."[1]

From the Bible

The Bible describes several cases of sneak attacks. The first one of these three was justified. The other two were not.

And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into [Eglon's] belly (Judges 3:21).

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).

For when [Rechab and Baanah his brother] came into the house, [Ishbosheth] lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night (2 Samuel 4:7).


Not all deadly-force church attacks originate outside the church. Sometimes a person already inside the church buildings decides to attack using a weapon of opportunity. This was the case in 2015 at the Anna Prayer Counseling & Retreat Center in Frederick County, Maryland.

Videocast and Show Notes

The incident covered here is discussed by Kris Moloney in a Sheepdog Church Security Academy videocast and a Church Security Roll Call podcast. Kris's military, law enforcement, and church security experience inform his analysis with emphasis on the lesson learned and how to apply it in churches. Under the video screen of the videocast is a link to the Church Shooting Lessons Learned Download (the Show Notes - an article summary). It will apply to this Lessons Learned article until the next one is posted.[2][3]

Get our free download, "Active Shooter Situations." It includes a checklist for what to do in an active shooter situation. Click *HERE* to get it.[4]

The Setting

The Anna Prayer Counseling & Retreat Center (also known as Anna Prayer Counseling Center and Anna [or Mt. Anna ((Annasan)) Prayer Center or Anna Mountain) is in a rural and wooded portion of Frederick County in Maryland. It is a prayer retreat with two chapels on a large campus. This is a non-denominational Korean-American church (Anna is the anglicized form of Annasan). Signs to and on the prayer center's campus are in both English and Korean. Sometimes persons with special needs are housed at the Anna Prayer Center so counselors can work with them. Besides serving Korean Christians, Annasan also hosts other racial/ethnic persons.

Danger from Within

On Sunday, July 25, 2015, following the evening meal, a small group gathered for prayer in a meeting room next to the dining hall. They were waiting for a "guest" to finish eating and join them. Among those waiting were Chung Hwan Park (age 62) and Ae Suk Ko (age 57), a married couple who had come from South Korea to volunteer at the center. He was a groundskeeper and she was a cook.

Finally the guest came in with his hands behind his back. Mr. Park asked him to sit down so they could begin the meeting. The guest pulled his hands from behind his back, holding a knife he had taken from the kitchen. He attacked Park, stabbing him several times. His wife intervened, trying to protect her husband. She was also wounded.

The assailant left, walking down the long drive to the county road. Someone in the room went into the kitchen when the attack began and called 911, telling them of the assault and asking for medical help.

The attacker had called 911 on Saturday to complain about the food, which was not to his liking (apparently the food was like the food served in Korea, and the assailant, who was a Korean-American, was accustomed to American-style food). He claimed they were trying to kill him or make him ill. On the road after the attack, he called 911 again, telling them to send an ambulance since he'd stabbed two persons.

A Disturbed and Ungrateful Guest

The suspect in the stabbings was someone who would have been labelled "criminally insane" a few generations ago. A resident of Northern Virginia, he was a U.S.-born Korean-American, age 30. He hated other Koreans because of how they "disrespected" him. He confided to detectives that for eight years he had thoughts of "invading Koreans." However, his manners and behavior probably provoked their disapproval of him. He was mentally ill.

The suspect was homeless. Before going to Anna Prayer Center, he had been staying at a Fairfax County homeless shelter, the latest among several. His mother arranged for him to stay at the Anna Prayer & Counseling Center for about a month to get help. She could not deal with him at home. He had already assaulted family members.

According to the killer's mother, he had been diagnosed as bi-polar when 10 years old, and grew up mentally ill. Through the previous decade he had been in mental health facilities and jails repeatedly. The cycle was to get arrested or committed, get help, get out, get in trouble, and go back in. She feared for her own safety, because he would become violent. Therefore, it is not hard to see why other Koreans, including those from Koreas, did not respect him. He did need help.

A friend of his mother told her that prayer might work. That's why she arranged for him to go to Anna Prayer Center. She had no idea that about a week later he would kill someone.

Going On

Mr. Park died from his wounds. His wife was treated at the hospital and survived.

After recovering from her wounds, the wife returned to South Korea. In 2020, she filed a lawsuit in Frederick County Court against the Anna Prayer Center and its two top administrators, claiming negligence led to her wounding and the death of her husband. A summary judgment was made by the judge for the defendants. They found that the plaintiff did not establish that the defendants had a duty to protect the couple from violence. This summary judgment was upheld on appeal.

Immediately following the deadly-force incident, Anna Prayer Center restricted access to the grounds for security reasons. The board and administration said they should continue to help troubled persons, but recognized the need for more careful consideration of who to bring in, and for closer supervision of mentally ill persons.

More than five years later, on November 22, 2020, in San Jose, California, there was a deadly stabbing at a homeless shelter in a church.

Lesson Learned: Discretion Advised

A board member of Anna Prayer Center indicated the lesson to be learned when he said that they "should become more cautious in welcoming people with possible mental health issues." He went on to say, "We'll just have to be more careful and police those who have mental health problems." In other words, discretion is advised when accepting people for counseling and when working with those who are mentally ill.

The ministry of the church is not only proclaiming the Gospel and discipling believers, but also helping those in the community who are in need of counseling and guidance. The reality is that this phase of ministry is risky because of the people involved. Some of this clientele have mental and behavioral issues. Toss in addiction to alcohol and drugs, and it increases the peril. The question then is, "How do we minister to these persons and maintain safety?"

This is an everyday concern for downtown rescue missions. Perhaps we can learn something from them. Here are a few steps they take:

  1. Evaluate those you bring in to help.
    1. In the first place, you find out what they really need.
    2. In the second place, you learn what risks a person poses.
    3. Know where to refer or send someone who needs more secure care than you can provide.
  2. Have policies and procedures in place for how to handle certain kinds of persons.
    1. Where they may go and stay.
    2. What they may have.
    3. What they may do.
  3. Monitor and supervise those receiving help, especially residents.
    1. Control access to knives, screw drivers, and puncture devices (such as ice picks).
    2. Control access to matches and lighters.
    3. Check for and keep out alcohol and drugs.
    4. Know where they are on the premises.
    5. Know when they are absent or missing.
  4. Be prepared and ready to use verbal de-escalation.
  5. Don't hesitate to call authorities when needed.


Use discretion when assisting persons in need who have or may have mental health issues, behavioral issues, criminal records involving violence of any level, and/or substance addictions.

Training Notes

The incident covered in this article shows the need of thorough and well-balanced training:

These considerations alone are addressed in four of the eight training modules (classes) in the Safety Member Certification program.

Three training formats are offered:

Team Certification is by church-hosted classes. Using the downloaded materials, an instructor can teach all those attending (hopefully the entire Safety Team). This is ideal when beginning a Safety Team, as well as when renewing certifications in two years.

Individual Certification uses self-paced online training. It enables a new Safety Team member to be immediately trained and certified instead of waiting for classes to be held. It can also be used when a member cannot attend a particular class.

Online Events is live Zoom classes. There are two classes left in the 2022-2023 school year, but a new school year starts in September. Enrollment is good for a year.

The current classes are at 3:00 pm Central Time. They are taught by Kris Moloney. A student enrolling now can complete the course when Online Events resumes in the Fall. The course can also be completed with Individual Certification.

The next class is "Storms and Disasters" on May 21.

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

Up Next

The next article is "Handling Trouble" (Unarmed Defense and Control). Most of the time, weapons are not the preferred option.


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, "Active Shooter Situations," Sheepdog Church Security, © Copyright 2018 [].

News Accounts

  1. CBS Baltimore Staff, "2 Stabbed, 1 Fatally, At Frederick Co. Prayer Counseling Center," CBS News, July 26, 2015 [].
  2. T. Grant Benson, "2 Stabbed, 1 Dead at Prayer Center In Md," Breaking 911, July 26, 2015 [].
  3. By Associated Press, "‘Very bloody scene' after deadly stabbing during church service," New York Post, July 27, 2015 [].
  4. Jade Walker, "Deadly Stabbing Attack At Maryland Prayer Center," HuffPost, July 27, 2015 [].
  5. Andrea Noble, "Northern Virginia man charged with murder in stabbing death at church retreat in Frederick County," The Washington Times, July 27, 2015 [].
  6. WUSA Staff, "Church stabbing suspect ordered held without bond," WUSA 9, July 28, 2015 [].
  7. CBS Baltimore Staff, "Official Says Christian Retreat Heartbroken Over Stabbings," CBS News, July 28, 2015 [].
  8. James F. Mannarino. with Jeremy Arias, "Korean faith community in Urbana in shock after deadly stabbing at prayer service," The Frederick News-Post, August 6, 2015 [].
  9. CBS Baltimore Staff, "Grand Jury Indicts Man In Fatal Church Stabbing Case," CBS News, August 21, 2015 [].
  10. Kelsi Loos, "Man found guilty, not criminally responsible in Korean prayer retreat stabbing," The Frederick News-Post, January 20, 2016, Updated January 21, 2016 [].
  11. Opinion by Shaw Geter, Judge, "Ae Suk Ko v. Anna Prayer Counseling, Inc.," Opinion No. 1230, Casetext, November 23, 2020 [].
  12. Nhat V. Meyer, "Suspect arrested in fatal stabbings at California church," AP News, November 23, 2020 [].