SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - After more than two dozen people were fatally shot Sunday at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Caddo authorities are urging local churches to have a security plan.
L. Lawrence Brandon, bishop of Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship and founding senior pastor of Shreveport's Praise Temple, recalled how churches could leave their doors unlocked when he preached his first sermon in 1983.
"But today, if you don't tie it down, it's coming up missing. You have to lock doors. And now we have evolved and then pushed to another extreme."
In light of the shootings at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Spring that killed 26 people and wounded 20 more, Caddo sheriff's deputies are urging congregations to take advantage of the free training they provide.
Tony LeBlanc, field operations manager, told KSLA News 12 the biggest pattern of thought that leads to apathy in these times is an assumption that a congregation, school or business is inherently safe.
"That's the biggest thing. 'It won't happen here.' Well, you know just what recently happened in this little, small town of Texas. It happened there."
Caddo offers free security assessments and one-hour courses on active shooter response, adhering to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's "Run, Hide, Fight" guidelines, which read:
- Have an escape route and plan in mind
- Leave your belongings behind
- Keep your hands visible
- Hide in an area out of the shooter's view
- Block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors
- Silence your cell phone and/or pager
- As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger
- Attempt to incapacitate the shooter
- Act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter
"They should have some type of security plan in place. We recommend they put a security team in place," LeBlanc said of churches. "You may be the first one. ... Mentally prepare yourself to have to fight first. Are you ready for that?"
LeBlanc also stressed knowing your escape routes and exits and coming up with your own lockdown procedure.
Brandon said he and members of his security team have met with deputies and have taken these tips to heart.
"We do have cameras. We do have an internal security team. They are known as a Shield of Faith."
As far as concealed carrying inside a church, LeBlanc points out that under Louisiana Revised Statute 40, concealed handguns are not allowed in churches unless allowed by the owner of the church.
The law also states that a congregation must be informed that there are concealed handguns inside and that those carrying them must acquire eight hours of tactical training.
"I do have a concealed carry permit, but I don't personally carry," Brandon told KSLA News 12. "I just think that's a bit much for me to do.
"But I have people on my team and around, and there are those who are vigilant. And then there are those who are peppered within the congregation that no one will ever know who they are."
Ultimately, Brandon said, preventing someone from making the choice to take a life starts with the congregation supporting each other then going out to support the community.
"All of us as humans. We're free moral agents. We make decisions. The Devil can only set the stage. But it's up to us if we choose to act on his stage or not."
Caddo deputies said any church, school or business wishing to take advantage of their free security assessments and training can call their office at (318) 675-2255.