THE ISSUE: Church shootings. THE IMPACT: Area pastors are learning how to protect themselves in the event of a mass shooting. Such training could help save lives, law enforcement officials say.
Officers from the Pine Bluff Police Department answered a call to action this week from the Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition to provide active shooter training to area church leadership. The call was a response to the recent church shooting in Texas where 26 people were killed.
Protection from mass shootings was the topic of the coalition's monthly ministerial alliance meeting Wednesday at New Saint Hurricane Baptist Church at 3309 South Ohio Street.
“The faith community's mission is to basically improve the lives of the citizens here in this city — we are not focused on Baptist churches or Methodist churches, we're interested in what's taking place around the country,” said Rev. Jesse Turner, president of PBFCC.
Attendees of the meeting included ministers from local churches, along with Pine Bluff Police Department Lt. David DeFoor, SWAT medic John Mooney, and Pine Bluff Police Department Detective Richard Wegner. DeFoor explained the dynamics of the two-hour presentation. He said the training is designed to handle any situation that involves a violent situation — not just an active shooter.
DeFoor explained why it is important for persons involved in a violent situation to know what to do while the situation is occurring and what to do after.
“I talk about what to do to keep the bad thing from happening, and John talks about how to take care of each other if the bad thing does happen,” DeFoor said.
“If somebody walks in here right now none of us in here have medical training — nobody in here is paramedic, police officer or anything like that and you get shot through your leg, how long do you think it's going to take for you to bleed to death? How long is it going to take me to get there and am I there to save you? No — I'm there to stop the guy that shot you.
“I'm going to do that first and by the time I come back to you it's too late and somebody here is going to do a very beautiful funeral for you, but if someone here knows how to use a tourniquet and the other things that we'll show you in the class then they can keep you alive until help arrives. You are the first responders — the people that are there when the bad thing happens are the first responders.”
DeFoor said he has conducted 117 such training events in the past three-and-a-half years, with the smallest one being for a retail store and the largest for a crowd of 500 people at The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He and Mooney recently presented a training session at Southeast Arkansas Technical College for a crowd of 127.
After DeFoor presented the program at the church he attends, First Assembly of God, Pastor Gary Bell said he did an assessment of the building and found that there were several areas of opportunity, and he has since made changes that will aide in preventing a violent occurrence.
Bell said he realized during the first five minutes of the presentation that he had no idea what to do in the event of an active shooter or any other violent situation. All of the pastors and church representatives in attendance agreed that they would feel safer if the presentation was demonstrated at a smaller and larger church in order to act out different response scenarios based on the building size.
It was also agreed that the trainings will include church leadership and whomever they designate to represent the church, then later extend the training to their congregations.
The first training is scheduled from 9-11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Saint Luke United Methodist Church, 32 School Street, in White Hall. The second training will be held from 9-11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, at Lakeside Methodist Church, 1500 South Olive Street, in Pine Bluff.
To schedule a training session for your home, church or business, contact DeFoor at (870) 489-9964 or Wegner at (870) 850-2400.