DEADLY FORCE INCIDENTS ASSOCIATED WITH FAITH-BASED OPERATIONS IN THE U.S.
FIRST REPORTS OF MOST RECENT DEVELOPING STORIES (BELOW) UPDATED 10/17/19
All crimes are “alleged” pending court. All offenders are innocent until proven guilty. Some of the following current stories may not make the final cut of qualified deadly force incidents, but we want you to know what we are watching.
10-16-19 Plainfield CT — Central Assembly of God. When the pastor found a homeless woman who had broken into the church, she pulled a large knife on him.
10-13-19 Fountain FL — First Baptist Church of Fountain. A parishioner arrived for Sunday morning service and interrupted a situation where a man was holding a gun to the head of the pastor.
10-13-19 Petersburg VA — Little Church Cemetery. Police are investigating the scene where a woman was found deceased at the church cemetery.
10-12-19 Pelham NH — Two were shot and one pistol-whipped when a man attacked a Saturday morning wedding in the church.
10-06-19 Pueblo CO — Lord’s Vineyard Fellowship Church. Senior pastor Cecilio “Roman” Ortiz was killed in his home by a gunshot from his own son who was intoxicated at the time.
10-06-19 Gainesville GA — Gainesville Seventh Day Adventist Church. A woman set fire to the church, then tried to stab officers with a pen as they rescued her from the burning structure.
10-06-19 Youngstown OH — St. Dominic’s Church. A 19-year-old was arrested after he fired into the home of his ex-girlfriend, then turned the gun on a police officer working security at the church across the street.
10-05-19 Newberry SC — Brown Chapel Circle. A non-custodial estranged father, who had threatened to kill his family, kidnapped his two children from the church.
10-04-19 Graceville FL – Salem AME Church. Authorities are looking for a specific car for questioning related to multiple gunshots believed to be fired into the church late that Friday.
10-02-19 Ft. Dodge IA — St. Paul Lutheran Church. Senior pastor Allen Henderson was beaten to death just outside the entrance to his church.
Disclaimer Notice on incident stories and statistics: All crimes are “alleged” pending court. All offenders are innocent until proven guilty.
Extensive effort has been made to verify accuracy in each story summary. Information is gathered from major news syndicates, law enforcement press releases, and public court records. While great care is taken with the wording of each incident, a certain margin of error exists in any collection of data. I welcome any corrective suggestions discovered by readers. I cannot be held responsible for errors, but will correct any error discovered as soon as more accurate information is confirmed.
This incident tracking includes all incidents where the senior pastor (and / or members of the pastor’s family) was murdered (or committed suicide) at their home, or murdered someone else themselves. Such an event would impact any church deeply, so we need to know about these as well. Though relatively few, it makes it difficult for those wanting a simple narrative of these incidents happening, “only at churches and faith-based organizations.” A proper way of saying it, is “directly impacting churches and faith-based organizations” OR “Associated with …”
When I started tracking deadly force incidents associated with faith-based organizations I had ideas of what such an incident looked like. Those ideas came from archetypical stories like Alvin Lee King (6/22/1980) or Shon Miller (3/10/1999) shooting church congregants as they sat in a worship service. As reading dozens of stories in a few years turned into researching hundreds of stories over more than a decade, a clearer understanding of the assorted nature of deadly force incidents emerged. Details of every attack are unique, but patterns developed and trends emerged to challenge pre-conceived notions. The reality of vulnerabilities and what really constituted a deadly force incident expanded.
By 2005, I knew that the number of deadly force incidents I had recorded surprised others as I disclosed the findings – nobody had any idea of the frequency and volume of deadly force incidents related to US churches and ministries. I wanted to publish the findings — to list stories that would be of applicable interest to church security operators and to provide occasional details as lessons learned.
One of the biggest misconceptions I still encounter with some readers is that we should only be concerned about an incident that has something to do specifically with the church – an opinion that we should analyze the details of an attack on faith-based property to see if there was some sort of “connection” to the ministry.
As if a stabbing at a Wal-Mart would have to be related to the cost of underwear for store security to be concerned? If a dead body showed up on the front steps of your home it would be irrelevant to you? If a drug deal turned bad and ended with gunfire on the White House lawn it wouldn’t be noteworthy if the President wasn’t even there at the time and no connection to the President could be confirmed? Any church that has experienced violence on their grounds knows how personal it is, whether it happened during a service or not and regardless of the connection to the church.
Connection is between the church and the community. If we become so disconnected as to not care when a gang fight in our parking lot claims a young life, we are missing our mission. The Central Church of Christ of Sarasota Florida modeled this connection for others after the body of 11-year old Carlie Brucia was found in their parking lot on Feb 5th 2004 following her abduction from a nearby car wash on Feb 1st. Though no evidence suggested she was actually killed there, the church now conducts an annual “Kids Safety Rally” and maintains a “Garden of Joy” in Carlie’s honor. It hit them as it should. It was their community and the crime had a dark and significant component of it that occurred on their property.
I also know there are still stories missed. I know police officers who have worked homicides, attempted homicides and suicides at faith-based properties where there was never any discoverable information publicized. If not allowed to list the source in the data base, I do not publish the story.
A deadly force incident is still one of the least likely things to happen at a ministry. The research published on this website verifies it happens more than previously thought.
Statistics can be found (or manipulated) to support predetermined opinions. So care must be taken in the gathering and presentation. I try very hard to discover and present simple truth in numbers and narratives. There is no agenda aside from information for the proliferation of awareness in order to start, improve or confirm safety and security readiness in faith-based operations.
This website is not in competition with any other website, speaker or author. Others contribute many good things through their websites and diverse venues. Paul said, “Test everything. Hold on to the good,”[i] Test what you find here and on other sites then apply the combination of all the best to your specific ministry. But get started .
You will find incidents from this year and the last full year prior summarized on this site. There are volumes of news stories, court documents, and eyewitness accounts of these stories compiled into statistical information which has been summarized in the tab of VIOLENCE STATISTICS in order to establish meaningful data.
Contact me at email@example.com if you wish to offer information on any of the listed stories, ones missed, or for a copy of the “Story Source and Publishing Policy.”
Thank you for your visit to this website, and keep up the great work of keeping His people safe.
[i] 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (New International Version)
Copyright Notice: If you can use any material on this website to make churches or ministries safer, please do so. Please pass on the information as freely as it is given.