From: www.carlchinn.com (reposted with permission)
For a season, I would send a periodic e-mail to our own church security team entitled, “think about it”. These regular e-mails would recap a story (some recent, some ancient) and suggest some thoughts for our security team to consider.
One of our team leaders recently asked me to start doing it again, so I thought I would share them with all of you at the same time through the website.
I will try (for a season) to do this as a weekly briefing tool for your security teams.
If this works for you let me know.
“How will you answer when asked, “…?”
On October 2nd, 1900 55-year old John Gleason knocked on the door of the parochial residence of the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Boston Massachusetts. When a church resident answered the door, Gleason asked to see Father McCarty. When the reverend Lawrence P. McCarty came forward, Gleason asked if he had been born in Ireland. The priest answered that he came from East Boston.
Upon hearing the answer, Gleason pulled out a previously concealed .44 revolver and shot multiple times, striking the priest once in the back. Gleason then went to Boston police station #7 and began talking illogically to Police about multiple confusing things as reports of the Priest’s shooting came into the station. Soon the dots were connected that the insane man they were speaking with was the shooter.
Gleason, who was very poor and living on state aid, said the Priest had been trying to injure him for a long time. It had been six years since he had seen the Priest, but he said he had “stood it as long as he could”.
On September 15th, 1999 47-year old Larry Gene Ashbrook parked his car in a handicap spot then walked into the Wedgewood Baptist Church smoking a cigarette. Jeff Laster was working at the Ft. Worth Texas church and approached him, intending to ask him to put out the cigarette. Before Jeff could speak, Ashbrook pulled out a pistol and began shooting as he asked, “Is this where that religious meeting is going on?”
Jeff was seriously wounded and felt as if it were very unreal – like a movie he was only watching. Ashbrook walked on past him shooting and spewing profanities as he killed 36 year old Sydney Browning where she sat nearby. He eventually made it into the sanctuary where teen-agers and young adults were gathered for a Wednesday night youth event celebrating earlier “Meet me at The Pole” activities. When the rampage was over, Ashbrook had randomly killed Browning, three 14-year olds, a 17-year old and two 23-year olds before turning one of his two handguns on himself.
Ashbrook had only one minor criminal violation (for possession of marijuana in 1971). Though he was considered by many to be mentally instable (neighbors considered him, “Crazy Larry”), he had never been treated. He would call local newspapers and tell of his fascination with Ricky Lee Green and other serial killers. Journals found in his home were a series of his written ramblings complaining about people he had encountered dating well back into the 1980’s. But there was no connection to the church ever discovered.
Ashbrook had lived with his dad in recent years, but his dad had recently died. He had wrecked that home (on the inside) before going to the church, but had manicured the lawn and trees (though it would be discovered later that he had also poisoned the trees).
His suicide came when teenager Jeremiah Neitz confronted him face to face in an aisle in the sanctuary and just asked him point blank to stop it. After a brief argument with Neitz, Ashbrook responded that, “I’m not interested in y’all – I wanted adults”, then put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger.
The LDS Church in Visalia California had 2 services each Sunday. At about 12:30 PM (between the two services) on August 29th, 2010 a stranger walked into the church asking to see “the Spiritual Leader”. Someone directed him towards the office of volunteer leader Clay Sannar, who was doing routine paper work in the office.
Moments later several shots rang out, the stranger vanished, and Sanner was dead.
As law enforcement processed the chaotic scene, 911 dispatchers received a call from a man who plainly said he had “just shot the Mormon Bishop”, gave them a fake name, but a real street address where police could find him, and told the 911 dispatcher they better come “prepared to throw down in mortal combat”.
As police converged on the scene, he opened fire on them which was returned with a barrage of gunfire killing the shooter.
Kenneth James Ward was angry at the Mormon Church for excommunicating him 16 years earlier (even though he had since rejoined the LDS church in an eastern U. S. state). The home where he told the police they could find him – where he died in the gun-battle – was the home he had lived in as a child.
You never know …
Sanctuaries of all faiths, from one end of our nation to the other, have been invaded by pure senseless evil throughout time. It could be a long-festering anger from years before or misdirected insanity having nothing to do with the church at all. But when that stranger (or familiar face such as often the case) walks into the doors of your church, you don’t know what baggage they are carrying.
There are some very sick people out there. What may sound as an innocent question to any greeter could be something far more sinister.
Be kind, open, caring, and a model of your faith. But be alert at all times.
Never forget you are a sheepdog.
As Jesus told His disciples,
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.