Williston, North Dakota – Billy Varner was arrested Saturday in Williston, North Dakota, by sheriff’s deputies responding to a report of an armed robbery at a local Catholic church, according to local news reports.

Congregants told authorities a man with a shotgun carried out a robbery during a mass service and was followed out as he fled by several parishoners.

Police reported the suspect is wanted for questioning in the deaths of 2 family members in Antioch, IL.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested him without any problems after initiating a traffic stop.

North Dakota authorities contacted the Antioch(IL) Police Department after a background check revealed Varner was wanted for questioning regarding the death investigation.

Training Notes:

Often we think about possible threats from our own local community, but here is an example of an alleged felon on the run after possibly murdering two people. Crime is unfortunately transitory and mobile.

Believe that something just as bad can happen at your church. According to the news story, the subject may have already killed two people. Since the church is close to the Canadian border, he may have seen a target of opportunity to hit for quick cash before he fled the country.

What are you or is your team prepared to do during an armed robbery in progress? Advice given to most people in a robbery is to give over the money and don’t resist. Given the fact there are numerous people present, attempting to disarm the subject or engage him in a gunfight, may lead to serious injury or death of people in close proximity.

Unless someone is about to be hurt or killed by the subject, there is no need to escalate the problem. Personally, I have decided that unless there is an immediate and dynamic threat to an innocent life, I will be a great witness. There is a tendency for many people who are armed to have the feeling they should be doing something. Being a good witness and surviving the incident is doing something.

While you are under no obligation to engage the subject, perhaps offering to take him to the church safe (and away from people) might be the safest possible thing you can do for everyone else, but is very risky for you.

The folks in this scenario followed him out, became excellent witnesses, and obtained vital information that allowed law enforcement to catch him soon after the crime. Nobody inside the church was injured and the bad guy was captured.

Are there any tactics you have thought about or trained for? Share them in the comment section.

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