Churches take steps to thwart shooters

By Amanda Duncan
Posted 1/8/20

Less than two hours from Wood County in White Settlement, a man sat in a pew of West Freeway Church of Christ during the Dec. 29 service before pulling out a gun and firing into the congregation, killing two parishioners.

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Churches take steps to thwart shooters


Less than two hours from Wood County in White Settlement, a man sat in a pew of West Freeway Church of Christ during the Dec. 29 service before pulling out a gun and firing into the congregation, killing two parishioners. 

Before the gunman could do more damage, Jack Wilson, firearms instructor and head of the church security team, took him out with one shot.

On his Facebook page, Wilson states, “The events put me in a position that I hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church.”

Unfortunately, events such as these have become more common in recent years. 

In Wood County Precinct Two, Constable Kelly Smith, Deputy Constable Jeff Hammond and Ray Barron help churches and businesses prepare for the unexpected. They offer ALICE Training and Consulting Certification and DPS Active Shooter Instructor Certification for schools, businesses and organizations.

They have worked with several local churches over the past two years and are available to train small and large businesses, women’s groups, schools and churches.

In Precinct Two, they offer a free establishment security evaluation. They can do a site and personal assessment, security consultation and help establish a security team. The training they offer is based on the Sheepdog Church Security Training for Churches. 

If a security team is already in place, Smith, Hammond and Barron can test it in a controlled environment according to state standards.

“Your security needs to be more than just concealed handguns,” says Smith.

They also host monthly training events for local churches where they have helped establish security.

Mineola First Baptist Church (MFBC) has trained with Smith and have had a volunteer safety team in place for over five years. They are not only responsible for active shooter scenarios but are trained for emergency and medical situations. 

The monthly training covers a wide gambit including handgun use, triage, using medical equipment such as defibrillators, assisting victims in an emergency and safety during a natural disaster.

Some team members have concealed handgun licenses, but it is not required to be on the safety team. Some team members are visible, performing jobs such as patrolling the parking area, and some stay behind the scenes. 

According to Pastor Phillip Casper, the training is beneficial. Not long ago, a lady in their congregation had a seizure. Trained team members were able to safely attend to her while keeping it low-key to minimize any embarrassment on her part.

Pastor Casper says they do not promote the security program but do encourage other churches and establishments to form a team and train if they feel comfortable in doing so.

Bill Self, a deacon at MFBC, heads up the safety committee.

After a major incident several years ago, the church started looking into being more secure. 

“We knew we needed something. If you do nothing, you are an easy target,” says Self. “Many incidents happen in and near small towns. We are not immune.” 

They started with a threat and risk assessment and have since taken it to another level.

Training in personal and situational awareness has taught them what to look for to avoid disastrous situations, and emergency medical training and active shooter training have only further prepared them.

Self says they have the safety team so that people in their congregation can worship without fear. 

“We worry so others don’t have to,” he says.

Reverend Paul Thomasson of Mineola First United Methodist Church says this is a subject that makes him very uncomfortable.

“You’re more likely to be killed in an accident on your way to church than killed by an active shooter in church,” he said.

Still, Rev. Thomasson believes the church should have training for gun carriers and for situations such as shooting sprees.

He has a firm belief that a shooter that goes into churches in Texas knows he will be met with armed members. 

“It is ultimately an act of suicide,” he says.

Rev. Thomasson points out that even with the trained armed civilians at the church in White Settlement, the shooter was still able to kill two people before he was stopped. 

He says there are four types of disruptive people who are not invited to the Methodist Church - the self appointed prophet with a vision from God, someone making a political statement or pushing a cause, someone who has a personal vendetta with another and has a “this church ain’t big enough for the two of us” attitude, and a suicidal spree shooter.

There have been such situations in the church, but not everyone who comes in acting strangely or overzealously needs to be shot. This is why appropriate training is necessary.

Rev. Thomasson has planned for the concealed carriers in his congregation who want additional training to attend the CRASE course. CRASE (Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events) is designed and built on the Avoid, Deny, Defend strategy developed by Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training in 2004.

It provides strategies, guidance and a proven plan for surviving an active shooter event.

Rev. Thomasson believes that revealing too much about their training and plans could make churches an easier target.

Smith reminds churches and businesses, “Stay vigilant. Remember your essentials and be ready all the time. Ten year old tactics are just that – ten years old. Bad guys learn and improve their tactics as should each of us.”

To acquire training, contact Smith at