Law enforcement: Be proactive against church shooters
Many people associate mass shootings with schools.
Actually, more faith-based organizations were targeted during 2016, when 246 violent acts were reported, Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose said Monday during a church safety training session at Kasson-Mantorville High School.
The event was hosted by law enforcement specialists in the wake of a Nov. 5 incident in which a gunman shot and killed 26 people at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
It attracted representatives from at least 30 area churches.
“It’s all about awareness, and starting a dialogue. We want to be part of that,” Rose said. “We want to be a resource for them, and this is the first step.”
A similar training session for parents of school children was held Nov. 27 at Kasson-Mantorville Elementary School.
Both were led by law enforcement officials promoting a Department of Homeland Security program titled “Run, Hide, Fight,” which gives people several options for survival in the case of a live shooter, and what to expect from law enforcement staff arriving on the scene.
“We can’t prevent incidents like this from happening, but we can give you the tools,” Dodge County Emergency Management director Matt Maas told those gathered Monday.
Maas said churches are easy targets, and most lack security and a plan for dealing with an active shooter.
He said church shootings in the U.S. increased from four during 2000 to 20 during 2016.
Thus, precautions must be taken to try and prevent such incidents, and minimize damage when they occur.
They include escaping the situation, hiding, locking and barricading rooms, and, as a last resort, fighting back as aggressively as possible.
“You need a mindset: ‘I’m going to go home tonight, to see my family,’” Maas said.
The church leaders also were advised to look for warning signs in others, such as bullying, intimidating behavior, depression, erratic behavior, and observable grievances with threats and plans of retribution; to take on a “survival mindset; and not be afraid to contact law enforcement if they believe a threat is imminent.
They watched a video titled “Get Out, Hide Out, Take Out,” produced by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, which offered advice on “becoming a stakeholder in your own safety” by employing awareness and preparation.
The law enforcement officials at K-M fielded several questions, including whether to try and preempt a shooting by using guns if they’re available at church (be careful, because law enforcement members making split-second decisions may confuse you for the shooter); and what to do if you see signs of trouble but the person has done nothing wrong.
“There are steps we can take before something happens,” Rose said. “Call us. We can gather whatever is necessary to help others.”
Leaders of Community Celebration Church in Kasson have discussed the subject, church board member Janet Helder said.
“It’s something that’s needed,” she said. “We need to be proactive, not reactive.”
Dean Gunn, pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Kasson, said Monday’s training provided helpful information on the subject of active shooters.
“It gives us a comfort, that we’re not ignoring it. We are addressing it,” he said. “Dodge County is doing a good job.”
John Todor, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kasson, also said it’s important to be aware that such situations can arise – and to be ready for them.
“The Bible mentions that we need to be wise and vigilant. Trust God,” he said. “But at the same time, do your part. God does take care of things, but we need to be vigilant.”
See search.dhs.gov and search for “active shooter” for more information.