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

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.



  1. Thank you Meeks for expanding on your explanation of church security. I am a veteran who served in a combat zone and was a former law enforcement official for more than 20 years. I now serve as a Texas Licensed Private Investigator and Safety and Security Consultant. I was featured a little over a year ago in the news for going against the Catholic Bishop of El Paso when I was part of the Safety and Security Council at St. Matthews Catholic Church. I made strong verbal statements and disapproval of the Bishop wanting parishioners to carry concealed weapons during all Masses every day.

    These types of ideas of gun-toting parishioners were brought in by non-patrol officials and others without any law enforcement experience. I had tried many times to tell the Bishop that security should be done by trained professionals that are armed with automatic weapons. I have never seen a hand gun win a battle against a military style weapon. I guess the Bishop thought more about the expense of having at least 2 armed security officers to cover the entrances on the outside, than going the cheap way of everyone becoming John Wayne. GOOD LUCK when the bullets start to fly! Even the Jews had trained Temple Guards.

    1. You are so uninformed about the subject it hurts. No, armed security does not need “automatic weapons” semi-automatic rifles would be more than enough. “Military style weapon” just shows your ignorance, so what a hand gun won’t win against an AR-15 because it looks “military style” but would win against a Mini-14 even though they’re almost the exact same firearm? So the handgun wouldn’t win against the Sig M17 but not the Sig P320 even though they are the exact same firearm? What the hell does “military style weapon” even mean, a scary looking rifle? You were a vet in the “combat zone” and LE for over 20 years and you spout out fake terms that a child would spew. Get real. Parishioners that want to carry SHOULD carry, it’s their God given right. See what happened in White Settlement, I think they handled themselves just fine.

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