This church security related article appeared in the Grand Forks Herald and was written by David Roepke.
Wheaton, MN-An argument over a used washer and dryer led to the death of a 14-month-old girl after she was hit in the head with a baseball bat during a church service in Wheaton, Minn., pastor said Friday.
Shortly before 7 p.m. on Thursday, Wheaton police responded to a report of an altercation at Thy King-dom Come Church, where the Rev. Danny Barnes said two men confronted the father of the girl who died.
Police believe that David Eric Collins interrupted a prayer service and tried to hit the father with a base-ball bat, according to a Traverse County Sheriff’s Office news release.
During the alleged attack on the father, whom police identified as Claude Hawkins, Hawkins’ 14-month-old daughter was struck in the head with the bat. Police said Hawkins defended himself with a chair.
The toddler was taken to Wheaton Community Hos-pital and later to MeritCare in Fargo, where she died about 2 a.m. Friday, Barnes said.
The pastor, who was not at the church at the time, said the argument was over a used washer and dryer that had been donated to the Hawkins family. Collins thought he was in line for the appliances, Barnes said.
“There’s a baby dead, and we’re talking about a washer and dryer,” he said. “I think a baby lost a life, and there’s no reason to it.”
Hawkins declined to talk about his daughter’s death. In an e-mail sending a photo of the girl from an account belonging to Barnes’ wife, Dena Barnes, the toddler was named as Aundrea Brownlow. Also, Hawkins identified his surname as Hankins.
Thy Kingdom Come Church was founded by Barnes, who has described himself as a former career criminal now reformed. The nondenominational ministry is designed to reach out and rehabilitate marginalized populations, such as substance abusers and the homeless.
Authorities stated in news releases Friday that the investigation is ongo-ing and that an autopsy will be done by the medical examiner in Ramsey County. The results of that autopsy weren’t available Friday.
In addition to Collins, 50, police arrested 43-year-old Darryl Glenn Kennedy. Police stated in a news release that they believe Kennedy arrived at the church at 305 5th St. N. in Wheaton shortly after the attack on Hawkins and was armed with a wooden 2-by-4 board.
Barnes said Kennedy was a friend of Collins.
Both suspects were held at the Traverse County Jail in Wheaton. A news release from the county sheriff’s office stated the men were suspected of second-degree assault but charges haven’t been filed. The Sheriff’s Department didn’t release mug photos, and Wheaton Police Chief Michael Jo-hannsen did not take phone calls on Friday afternoon.
Authorities also said they wouldn’t release the identity of the girl until all family members are notified.
Barnes said he doesn’t believe the girl was struck with the bat on purpose.
“I don’t think anybody’s thinking that,” he said. “But I also don’t think he had any regard at all. He (Collins) had been drinking, and he didn’t care whether there was a baby in the room or not a baby in the room. He felt like he had been offended and was inappropriate in his response.”
Barnes said he gave the washer and dryer to the Hawkins family because they had four children, while Collins’ family has none. He said the Hawkins family recently moved into a home.
Barnes said Collins came to Wheaton from the Dorothy Day Center, a homeless shelter in St. Paul. Collins was in Thy Kingdom Come’s transitional hous-ing program and was not being treated for alcoholism, he said.
This is a tragic, senseless death of a precious little baby girl. We often urge our members to begin the process of subject control with verbal skills, but there are times when immediate defensive action is justified and reasonable.
The suspect entered into a church during a prayer service, armed with a large piece of wood, and was attacking a church member with deadly force. The man being assaulted defended himself with a chair. However, this man’s rampage with a deadly weapon struck a defenseless baby and she was killed.
Prepare for the worst, pray it never happens, but be ready to quickly and reasonably intervene to save lives.