On Sunday, December 29, 2019, a male entered the West Freeway Church Of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. The church had approximately 240 parishioners inside the building for the 11:00 AM service.
The Church Security Team Noticed Something was ‘Off’
The suspicious visitor caught the attention of the volunteer church security team while he was walking through the parking lot. The security team knew that it was unusual to see someone arriving without a vehicle, and walking the full-length of the parking lot from the road. Upon closer inspection, the security team noted that the visitor was wearing a bulky trench coat, a fake beard, a long black wig, and sunglasses.
These were immediate red flags for the security team.
The man entered the church and sat in the back. The security team placed a video camera on the suspect and began monitoring his movements. Also, one of the team members stationed himself directly behind the suspicious individual, keeping watch of the man’s hands at all times. The security team described their actions as being a “case of maybe it's nothing, but maybe it's worth looking into.”
The shooter eventually stood up. He pulled out a shotgun and killed 2 parishioners. Within 6 seconds, he was confronted and killed by two security team members.
What Lessons Did We Learn From this Tragic Event?
First, we learned that security identified the threat while the individual was still in the parking lot. The Institute for Childhood Preparedness has always recommended that everyone monitor their parking lots with cameras to identify potential problems before a questionable individual can enter the building.
Second, the security team noted the offender was wearing a bulky trench coat despite the temperature being in the mid- ‘40s. They were quickly able to identify a sign that someone may be trying to conceal a weapon (bulky clothes that don’t fit the weather). Other suspicious signs include unnatural gait, jacket sag, bulges, and a hunchback stride.
And lastly, the team had a keen level of situational awareness to notice things that ‘just didn’t look right.’ They saw a person walking in, wearing what appeared to be a disguise, sitting in the back while wearing a bulky coat, and acting suspiciously. Because of all these factors, the team was prepared to act quickly, and their actions saved dozens of lives. We applaud the heroic efforts of the West Freeway Church Of Christ security team.
At the Institute for Childhood Preparedness, we have always recommended that everyone be aware of all of the warning signs that the church security team noticed and acted upon to avoid an even more catastrophic event.