PLEASANT HILL, Iowa -- The Texas group Sheepdog Seminars came to Iowa to help church leaders and law enforcement learn how handle potential shooting incidents in churches or houses of worship.
“I think you start when you realize 114 people died a violent death on faith-based property last year, that’s a new record that surpasses the old record of 77 in 2015,” said Jimmy Meeks of Sheepdog Seminars. “So we’re trying to get churches to be a little bit more street-smart, there’s usually one or two percent of the people in the congregation that are, when they’re made aware of things like this, they can form a safety team and start getting trained.”
The event was held at Berean Church, as they were approached by the Pleasant Hill Police Department about the possibility of such training.
“I think if you ask every pastor in the U.S., we’d like to be able to accommodate everybody that comes in at anytime,” said Lead Pastor Gary Pilcher. “With the culture changing so much that you can’t put people at risk that way, we’ve had to change the way we do our building and we’ve had to develop a safety team.”
This training is designed for a church or school setting, or anywhere a large group is gathered.
“That’s where this training helps out, situational awareness, to know where you are, know where your family is, where the exits are to the buildings,” said Pleasant Hill Police Chief Al Pizzano. “So if something like this happens, you know where the exits are, you can exit and call 911.”
"We’ve got to wake up to the reality of what’s taking place, that in the mind of a criminal, a house of worship is no longer off limits,” said Meeks.
CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston also works with churches to train their safety teams on the proper use of a firearm. The company also offers training on how to verbally calm a situation without firing a shot.