April 17, 2019LAPEER COUNTY — While it seems that places of worship should be sacred and off limits when it comes to violence and mass shootings, statistics demonstrate otherwise.
Fatalities at churches and synagogues across the United States have been recorded beginning in 1999, with the most deadly occurring in November of 2017, when a gunman opened fire in the First Baptist Church in the rural community of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six worshippers were killed, 19 others were injured.
The most recent occurred on October 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Tree of Life synagogue. A gunman opened fire and took the lives of eleven people. Six others—including four police officers—were injured in the attack before the suspect was taken into custody by police.
Elsewhere, last month's horrific massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand left 50 people dead and at least as many wounded. The incident stunned the normally non-violent nation and shockwaves were felt across the globe as the gunman posted the terrorizing event on Facebook live.
Closer to home, Lapeer County Sheriff McKenna hopes to avoid such incidents.
His office just launched a new Church Security Program for all Lapeer County places of worship. The program is being led by Sgt. Craig Miller, the department's most current Deputy of the Year. Miller has logged more than 40 years of experience, and is described by McKenna as "an elite performer" in the law enforcement community.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, April 10, McKenna said Miller and his team offer inspections of church property and suggestions on protecting the congregation.
"(The team) will give instruction on the procedures to follow in the event of an emergency, including an active shooter scenario that unfortunately we must plan for in today's world," McKenna said in the post.
This Church Security Program will also offer insight on the history of attacks on places of worship, and will assist church leaders in building trauma kits and how to use them under stress.
"This is a hands on, scenario based training approach for your church and or any church members who are or may be called upon for security purposes," McKenna said in the post.
"So far, this training has been initiated at several churches already and has been very well received and has also been endorsed by these churches as an excellent potential life saving training event," the post concludes.
The new program has garnered the attention of news and media outlets across the area. In order to handle the requests for information, the Sheriff's Department is hosting a press conference detailing the Church Security Program this afternoon (Wed., April 17) at 1:30 p.m. at the Lapeer County Sheriff's Office Conference Room.
For more information on the new program or to schedule an appointment for your church, contact Sgt. Craig Miller at 810-664-1801.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.