CHICAGO (CBS) — Sunday’s tragic shooting at a Texas church has shaken churchgoers around the country, and they’re left wondering about safety at their own place of worship.
Doug Cummings, a personal safety consultant who works with churches in the Chicago area, says while now is the time to take precautions, churches often don’t talk about security.
“They don’t think that anything bad is going to happen — they’re a house of worship. And they really don’t have significant problems to make them want to address the security issue,” he said.
But Cummings says that sort of mentality makes churches a soft target, and encourages pastoral staffs to band together. He recommends establishing a security team by seeing who among the congregation is equipped to help out. He also suggests making parking lot volunteers the first line of defense.
“You may have a chance to have a heads-up if you see somebody in the parking lot who’s acting suspiciously,” Cummings said. “So parking lots are a good place to start with your security heads-up.”
Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing and injuring multiple people before killing himself.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said 26 people were killed in the shooting: 23 were found dead inside the church, two were found dead outside the church and one died on the way to the hospital. The victims range in ages from 18 months to 77.
The gunman has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He was dressed in all black with tactical-type gear and was wearing a ballistic vest, according to the Texas Dept. of Public Safety.
CBS News learned Kelley served at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 to 2014. He was court-martialed in 2012 on charges he assaulted his spouse and child. Kelley was sentenced to 12 months confinement, and received a bad conduct discharge.
President Trump took to Twitter Sunday afternoon to say that he is monitoring the situation from Japan, where he is currently visiting for the Asian summit.
“May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”