Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Some Initial Lessons Learned from the Texas Tragedy

There are several facts emerging from the ongoing investigation of the shooting at First Baptist Church, Sutherland, Texas:
"Long before he walked into the Sutherland Springs’ First Baptist Church, victims of Kelley's rage — and those who simply crossed his path — repeatedly told authorities that he was a dangerous man."Texas Gunman Left a Series of Red Flags. USA Today, November 7, 2017 
Some key points:

  • The killer had a previous relationship with church members
  • The killer was known to be "troubled"
  • The killer had previous legal problems: assault, animal cruelty, and stalking
"I hear firecrackers popping. Ta-ta-ta," Solis said. "Everybody started screaming, yelling. Everyone got down, crawling under wherever they could hide. It was so scary." The shooting was coming from outside the church. Solis said she was hit in the shoulder. She and her husband, Joaquin Ramirez, were bloodied and played dead, watching as fellow parishioners were felled in the hail of bullets. When the shooting stopped, she thought police might have arrived. It was actually the gunman, 26-year-old Devin Kelley, entering the church. Harrowing moments inside Texas church: Gunman shouted 'everybody die,' fired at crying childrenUSA Today, November 7, 2017
According to witnesses:

  • The killer's attention was diverted and he left the church and did not return
  • People hiding under pews were shot at close range
  • No one engaged the shooter inside the church
  • No one knew what was happening until it was "too late"
The attack ended when the killer was confronted by an armed, concerned neighbor. There was an exchange of gunfire and the killer was hit twice.
"I know I hit him," Willeford said. "He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again." The gunman then sped down the highway. Man who shot Texas church gunman shares his story. 40/29 News, November 7, 2017

Conclusions so far:

  • Churches must be aware of conflicts within the church and families in the church and continually assess the level of conflict and potential for harm. This will likely include confidential information. Identified security team members must be kept apprised by pastoral staff.
  • During Sunday School, Services, and other events most people's attention is appropriately on the speaker, singer, preacher. There must be some whose attention is focused on access ways (front and side doors, etc).
  • Doors must be closed and locked from the inside where access is not under continual surveillance.
  • Church ushers are the first line of defense -- while not expected to engage, they should be expected to report. Others trained and capable of dealing with disturbances and threats should be made aware of who, where, and what upon first "feeling" of concern (in other words, don't wait to analyze before reporting).
  • ENGAGE shooters immediately -- diversion, distraction, resistance-- up to immediate and violent reaction is the only way to end a mass killer's rampage.



The Assertion that Firearms are designed to kill

A common "talking point" circulating in the "gun control" debate is: "Firearms are designed to kill." I have s...