Wentzville, MO – On Saturday evening, (January 21, 2012), St. Patrick Catholic Church, 405 South Church Street held a fund raiser for a church member who has cancer.
While the event began to wind down, volunteers started to clean up and popped several balloons used during the event. While this was happening, one of the young men helping in the clean up was shot in the chest and wounded.
Police were called to the scene. Three hundred people were still on the church property, and police officers held everyone at the scene as they conducted their investigation.
While conducting the investigation, police officers reportedly searched everyone present, the premises, and cars still in the parking lot. Officers collected 165 witness statements before allowing the crowd to go home after 4:00 AM.
At approximately 0830 AM, a man went to the Wentzville Police Department and contacted officers regarding the incident leading police to describe this incident as tragically unintentional.
The church has posted signs prohibiting the use of firearms on the church property, including anyone with a concealed carry permit. It is unknown whether the person involved is a CCW holder, part of a security team, or a random member of the church or community.
Police and prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine the appropriate charge in this case.
What if this happened in your church, what should your role be?
As noted, it is unknown at this time the details of the incident. What we know is an innocent man was shot by someone and it is being described as accidental. Due to the balloons being popped, many did not realize a shot had been fired.
This is the critical importance of assigning roles during a stressful, dynamic event.
As a team member, your two primary obligations are scene safety and immediate medical care. Certainly, once the victim went down with a wound to his chest, people near him would be concerned and actively try to help him. The scene, with so many people still present, was probably chaotic.
Your role, if you choose to accept it, is to scan the area for threats and determine if anyone else is in jeopardy of being shot. If this is an active shooter situation, and you have the means to stop it, you may choose to engage the suspect through use of a firearm, if you are not also further risking the lives of everyone present in the room.
Many active shooter incidents are stopped by people in a crowd who quickly recognize what is happening and perform an empty hand physical defense technique. (i.e. a tackle or body slam to the ground).
This incident did not initially present itself in this way, and the suspect was not easily identified (due to more shots being fired inside the building).
Secondly, you may choose to begin evacuating people to another part of the church away from the scene. Someone needs to take charge until police arrive, and since many people initially freeze or question whether the event is happening, they need a strong voice to tell them what to do.
However, preplanning should involve assigning someone on the team or in church leadership to contact the police and EMS via 911 and describe what has happened at the church.
In this case it is not certain whether anyone even knew a gun had been fired, so there was probably less panic initially.
Is there anyone on your team who can perform basic first aid? The primary concern in a shot to the chest is whether the victim can breath, preventing blood loss, and shock. It is extremely important to have Advanced Life Support (ALS) en route as soon as possible. Click here for a few basic steps to aid in a bullet wound.
Does your medical kit include a bulb valve mask? gauze, sponges, a blanket? Is there anyone on scene who knows how to use the equipment?
As the case progresses, I will update the blog when new information develops.