More than three weeks after a man gunned down 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, more than 30 members gathered at the Forrest Park Baptist Church in Columbus Wednesday for a forum on active shooter training.
“Who would have ever thought 20 years ago that you would have people coming into a church or a school shooting?” Police Lt. Tim Wynn asked the group in the church’s fellowship hall. “Unfortunately, that is the society we are in today. We are going to have to learn to adjust to it.”
Authorities described an active shooter as one or more persons engaged in killing or willing to kill multiple people in an occupied area. On Nov. 5, Devin Kelly entered the First Baptist Church in Texas where 26 were killed and more than 20 were wounded before he took his own life.
At a church, Wynn noted that members of a congregation usually have their backs turned from the door when the sound of gunfire is heard. The first reaction of the brain is denial, then deliberation in trying to determine the next step before a decisive moment.
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If no one is armed with a gun in the building, Wynn said the best approach is to get people into a secure room that can be locked or barricaded to keep out the shooter. Anyone who moves toward the gunfire will be a target, he said.
As a training officer, Wynn said officers are taught to deal with high-stress situations. During an active shooter situation in which four or more people could be killed, he said churches should have a plan in place to deal with a situation in each part of the facility.
“It don’t take much to walk into a church or school and shoot a bunch of people,” he said. “That is not a tough guy, that is a coward. That is my opinion and the way I would feel about it.”
Under Georgia law, Wynn said an armed person has the right to protect himself if there is a threat. Under a high-stress situation, Wynn said you have to program your brain to deal with those type of individuals.
“Think to decide what to do,” Wynn said. “There is a problem, and you have to figure out what it is.”
During the session, officers from the Community Relations Unit handed out a list of tips which included a church security plan, a church ministry team, monthly security training, controlled hours of operation and security cameras. They also suggested lockdown procedures, talking with members and practicing good customer service in approaching strangers at the church.