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PO Box 239, Pratt, KS 67124

1999-2019 DFI Study, 3rd of 3 Parts

For the first time in three years, today’s TAI will be longer than 400 words. There is just a lot to process with this report.

Last week I mentioned the story that significantly influenced the DFI (Deadly Force Incident) research. Kristen French didn’t attend the church where she was abducted while walking through the parking lot. It occurred on a Thursday while nothing was going on at the church. Her abductors were a normal looking husband and wife. No firearms were involved.

Those things illustrate the need to evaluate statistics correctly to capture the most critical things for any security program to consider.

Let’s unpack some of the data and summarize it into actionable strategies. The following statistics are gathered from 21 complete years of studying the most violent situations connected to faith-based organizations (FBO’s) in the U.S.

The complete data can be found and downloaded at

At the end of each data set discussed below will be the actionable strategy (symbolized by *) for any program to consider.


In those 21 years there were 2,183 such incidents. 581 (26.61%) of those incidents resulted in 734 homicide victims and injuries to 1,149.

* Violence at FBO’s occurs much more frequently than anyone was reporting. More than ¼ of deadly force potential incidents at FBO’s result in murder. There is sufficient data to support the need for an intentional safety & security program.


Of the 1,771 incidents where a motive for the attack (trigger) could be reasonably presumed, the most common trigger was robbery (24.68%). In the early days of the study, personal conflict (disagreement between 2 or more people that erupted into a DFI) was the leading trigger. A trend began to develop in the data however that shed light on a particular kind of personal conflict worthy of it’s own category; domestic violence. That emerged and held steady as the 2nd most common trigger for a faith-based DFI at 14.29% of the incidents. Personal conflict (now defined as a disagreement between 2 or more non-domestic-related people that erupted into a DFI) is the third most common trigger at 13.95%.

Bias (against any form of religion, race or people group) would seem to the general public (due to news reports) as the biggest problem. It simply is not. Only 5.08% of the attack triggers were bias (this would normally include terrorist attacks).

* It’s OK to consider the potential for a bias attack, but we should be far more concerned about robbery, domestic violence and people with known (or erupting) conflicts than an attack coming at you just because of who you are (American, Christian, black, Jewish, liberal or conservative). Domestic violence spillover into the church is a problem being ignored in many circles. It is a serious issue and one of the most likely reasons your plan may be tested someday.


19.67% of the aggressors were associated with the FBO they attacked. Associated means they were a member, past member, employee, past employee, spouse of a member or employee, volunteer or vendor). 11.72% of the deceased victims were staff or volunteer at the ministry. Another 49.59% of the deceased victims were affiliated (member, past member, vendor, benevolence recipient) with ministry. Those 2 categories can be summed together to see that 61.31% of the deceased victims were in some way associated with the attacked FBO.

* There is an inherent error in basing your plans on intruder concepts. Not that you shouldn’t give some effort towards intruders but understand 1 in 5 aggressors are known to the FBO. In fact, there have been more senior pastors kill their own wives or others than there has been bias motivated attacks at churches. Your program should not be focused on who hates you. Your program should be based on the safety of the people you love in your FBO. And never forget your FBO is part of your community. Don’t just discard those represented by the 38.69% of those who died at an FBO with no known connection to it. One of the most insulting things to the victim’s family and the community is a statement by the church (that we often hear) that the murder had nothing to do with the church. Even though the terrible story of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia (2/5/2004) didn’t involve a child associated with the church where her body was found, it prompted the Sarasota, Florida Church of Christ to install a garden and prayer walk dedicated to her, and to conduct occasional services dedicated to the safety of children — it changed them forever. The notion by some that any considered violence must involve people or themes associated with the church is misguided at best.


515 (24.29%) of the DFIs occurred (or began) inside the building. 1605 (75.71%) occurred (or began) outside on ministry property, parking lot or activity location. 806 (38.4%) of the incidents occurred during an FBO sponsored event. 1293 (61.6%) occurred when there was not an event in progress.

* Chances are 4 to 1, that violent crime will take place outside of your building (rather than inside) on ministry grounds or in the parking lot. Have some portion, of your most effective intervention-capable defenders, assigned to the outside. And don’t forget ministry staff training and awareness for those times when there are no volunteer defenders on site. Especially train (and equip) your benevolence workers as the community outreach programs are worthy of their own study due to the frequency of attacks associated with that community service.


56.62% of the weapons identified in these attacks were firearms. 15.26% were knives (or other stabbing or slashing instruments). 6.62% were automobiles. 5.75% were fires, Molotov cocktails or explosives (this study does not include arson unless it occurred when people were inside). All other weapons identified (bludgeoning, poisoning, hanging, strangulation etc.) were 15.75%.

* A firearm remains the most favored weapon of attackers. But over 4 out of 10 times it will be something else. While firearm weapon training must be in your program, make certain you are not only focused on bad guys with guns. Again – your focus is on keeping your people safe, regardless of what weapon has been fashioned against them.

Think About it

There are more applicable lessons learned than the 5 critical categories listed. Download a copy of the statistics yourself (from and be ready to tell those around you why you believe in intentional readiness at your FBO.

Never forget, these are not just numbers. Associated with each number is a name. A mother, daughter, grandpa, grandson, brother or sister that we, as a society, have failed.

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