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El Paso churchgoers undergo active shooter training, told bowing heads in prayer can make them a target

Image from video inside the West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas during a 2019 shooting.
Image from video inside the West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas during a 2019 shooting.

EL PASO, Texas-- Churchgoers at the Bethel Church of God learned how to defend themselves against an active shooter. A safety seminar Thursday evening was led by Jimmy Meeks, a retired police officer and church minister.

Churchgoers were reminded that one of the worst mass shootings in American history happened in a church. On Nov. 5, 2017 a lone gunman opened fire and killed 25 in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

"It is horrible, I am never surprised," Meeks said. "The thing that surprises me is that it doesn't happen everyday. There are a lot of people on edge everyday - you think of what happened here in El Paso last August it is heart breaking."

A big focus of the seminar is how worshipers may get themselves in danger when they pray. Meeks noted that many times, one closes their eyes and bows their head in prayer - in essence they make themselves a target.

"Most people don't know the Charleston massacre, where nine African-American brothers and sisters were killed. He did not shoot them until they bowed their heads and closed their eyes," Meeks said .

While Meeks believes in the Second Amendment, he said church safety extends much further than carrying around a gun.

"If you don't have somebody outside the front door within 20-30 feet that is armed and trained, and I cannot highlight the word trained enough, if you are just a believer of the Second Amendment and you want to carry that's your right. But if you are going to serve as a protector of a flock there is more required of you," Meeks said.

While many churches may adopt a volunteer to stand outside the door to deter potential threats, Meeks recognizes that not everyone may want to carry a gun.

"Not everyone that works in a church office wants to have a gun and that's fine, why not have pepper spray?" he asked.

For more information on Meeks or his seminars, you can follow this link.

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JC Navarrete

El Paso native JC Navarrete co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend newscasts and reports during the week.


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