Different experiences speak to the need for more protection
Photo: Some of the more than 200 church security people learning how to keep their churches safer at the Protecting the Flock Conference. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
Jack Wilson and Carl Chinn have had different experiences to get where they are today in their pursuit of church security. But both are resolute in that they want the church sanctuary to be a house of worship and a house of prayer, not a house of fear.
Wilson and Chinn were two of the presenters at this weekend’s “Protecting the Flock Church Safety and Security Conference” held at Brown Missionary Baptist Church on Stateline Road in Southaven.
For Jack Wilson, his experience on a Sunday morning at his suburban Fort Worth, Texas church in December 2019 put him and church security into the national spotlight.
In charge of the security team at his church, Wilson was called on to take down and shoot a man who had entered a service and started shooting at worshippers, killing two members of his security team in the action.
“We had an individual come into the building with a coat on,” Wilson related. “His left arm was stationery, and we found out after the attack it was securing a 12-gauge shotgun with a pistol grip on it. About halfway through the service, he produced it, killed two men and then saw my movement. I had already drawn my weapon out of my holster.”
The shooter, identified as Keith Thomas Kinnunen, age 43, was also wearing a fake beard and a hat at the time, and was taken down in just seconds, Wilson said.
“The thing of notable importance was that he stood with the gun until he was down for six seconds,” Wilson said. “That is how fast your life can change, in those six seconds.”
The shooting was seen on a livestream of the service, as all services of the West Freeway Church of Christ where it occurred. It was then shared and seen many times after it happened on social media.
A grand jury reviewed the case, but in 2020 declined to file charges.
“I have total confidence in what I did with the training we had done and the ability, but I also know God’s hand was on me when I pulled the trigger,” Wilson said.
Carl Chinn encountered the need for church security on two separate occasions, once as a hostage when he worked at the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado followed 11 years later when a gunman entered his church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“In 2007 we had an active killer come and kill two sisters in the parking lot, and then came into the building with about 1,400 rounds of ammunition intending to inflict mass casualties,” Chinn said. “But, our security team met him within 60 feet of coming through the door and met him with deadly force and stopped him. Both of those things set me into a process of speaking to faith-based organizations about the importance of this.”
Both incidents led Chinn to start researching and speaking to groups about the need for tighter church security. It also led Chinn to start the Faith Based Security Network.
“It’s a membership association for men and women who serve in the capacity of faith-based security, mostly church security and houses of worship, but we also have ministries like soup kitchens that are represented,” Chinn said.
Wilson and Chinn related their stories as part of the conference that also attracted speakers Toney Armstrong, the former Memphis police director now Director of Security at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Bellevue Baptist Church Director of Security Services Mike Everett.
About 200 church security leaders were on hand to learn ways and means of keeping their churches more secure. Chinn said there are continual threats to houses of worship that church leaders and parishioners should be concerned about.
“There’s an increase in attacks against churches but there’s also been some denial going on for many years,” Chinn said. “It’s not a new thing, it’s just that we’ve become more aware of it and it is increasing because we have an erosion of moral values in America and it’s coming into our churches.”
“This is extremely important,” Wilson added. “It’s giving people the training and the knowledge that they need to be able to go through and do what is necessary to protect the flock and the citizens.”
The Family Research Council has issued a report that said acts of hostility against churches continued to be on the rise in the first quarter of 2023, reaching 69 incidents through the month of March. The report includes the March 27 fatal shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Churches used to be a safe haven but there are no safe havens anymore and it is up to individuals, at churches and schools, at malls, everywhere,” said Wilson. “You have to be prepared to train for the worst and hope for the best.”
It was a sad method for it to happen, but Wilson said his incident helped to wake up the nation to the importance of church security.