St. Mary's County Times December 07, 2017 - Page 3

The County Times Thursday, December 7, 2017 Local News 3 Sheriff: Churches Must Plan for Mass Shootings By Guy Leonard Staff Writer As mass shootings become more common, Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron warned dozens of church leaders Tuesday that they must have a plan of action to deal with an armed assailant. Cameron said police are constantly training to respond quickly to what has become known as an active shooter but he admitted that events like the shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas are over in two to three minutes. That means there are likely to be many dead or wounded when the police arrive to fi nd the shooter if they have not already committed suicide, he said. “I tell our offi cers that when the bell rings you’d better be ready to go,” Cam- eron said to the gathering at Trinity Epis- copal Church in St. Mary’s City. “You’re going to go in, fi nd the threat and elimi- nate it.” Perhaps the most painful lesson learned from the shooting in Sutherland Springs, where 26 church members lost their lives to a lone, deranged gunman, was that no one thought it would happen there. “Complaceny kills,” Cameron said. “It doesn’t allow you to prepare.” The meeting between the church lead- ers and law enforcement was kept secret with limited notice to the media for a rea- son, Cameron said, because active shoot- ers are drawn to target rich environments. “We are a target rich environment,” he said to the packed sanctuary at Trinity Episcopal. “It makes me angry when that’s the world we live in. “There’s absolutely no place that’s immune.” To prepare for an active shooter, church leadership had to make a plan of action that rested on the options of running, hid- ing or fi ghting off the active shooter with improvised weapons. Evacuating the area was the best option, law offi cers said, with hiding and fi ghting less desirable. Capt. Steve Hall told church leaders their overall security plan should include which staff members are responsible in such events and what parts of a church building could be used as safe rooms. Evacuation routes in the church and be- ing able to identify them were also critical to a solid security plan. When it came to fending off an active shooter, victims should look to anything they could to fi ght with. “We’re not advocating guns but I’m not saying it’s a bad idea,” Hall said. “Impro- vised weapons work, too.” Hall said one local church developed a layered security plan where members were in the parking lot during church ser- vices to look out for any potential threats before they gained entry to the interior of the building. This was often counter-intuitive for church members, as they came to worship in peace and tranquility and eschew the cares of the outside world. “That just doesn’t jive with the change of view we have to have now,” Hall said. Cameron said one critical component of church security was to heed the intu- ition that something was suspicious or potentially dangerous before a tragedy occurred. It was important to not deny that bad things could happen anywhere. “Our intuition, it’s a powerful thing,” Cameron said. Larry Crabtree, senior pastor at SAY- SF Bible Church in Lexington Park, said he asked police offi cers who attend his church to remain armed, even in plain clothes. “I ask them if they bring their weapon to church and some of them aren’t bring- ing it,” Crbatree said at the gathering. “They’re people… and sometimes they want to leave the gun behind. “But I tell them, ‘ Do me a favor and bring your weapon to church.’” County Times St. Mary’s County ● Calvert County Would you like to place a Classifi ed Ad in our paper? Email Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron The Law Office of Troy C. Hansen, LLC troyhansen Family Law | Divorce/Separation Custody | Domestic Violence Adoptions | Guardianships Se habla espanol 22835 Washington Street | P.O. Box 2002 | Leonardtown, MD 301-475-5000 | Fax 301-475-3872