Austin, TX – What would you do?  After church on Sunday, off-duty Officer Jonathon LaBorde observed a bloodied man running through a church hallway.  He followed the man outside and was involved in a foot chase.

When officers responded, LaBorde identified himself to responding officers by holding his badge in his left hand, and a gun in his right.

After a foot pursuit, LaBorde caught up to the man and held him until officers were able to take him into custody.

The kicker?  The officer was disciplined and suspended 10 days for creating a dangerous situation.  It seems his department, Austin PD, had a policy against intervening out of an officer’s jurisdiction.

After the investigation, officers determined the suspect had robbed someone of a tablet and had been involved in an altercation.  The suspect had pulled a knife on the victim and then fled into the church.

There is a high probability the suspect would have escaped had LaBorde not intervened.

Here are a couple of things to think about. 

  1. If you are an off-duty officer serving on a church security team, what are your legal rights and what is your department policy if you were to be involved in any apprehension?
  2. If you are not a law enforcement officer, but are serving in the capacity of an armed team member, and saw the same circumstances, what would you have done?
    • If the bloodied man was running through your church, would you pursue off the church property? (You may be seen as the problem by arriving LEOs if you do.)
    • If you involved yourself, do you have something that would EASILY identify you as security?
    • Do you have a legal right to pursue if he didn’t harm anyone on the church campus? (In most cases the answer is no – even if someone where harmed and escaping, you have no duty to apprehend.)
  3. If you are an unarmed team member, what do you think are your primary responsibilities?  (Life safety, scene safety, getting a good description and last known direction of travel, calling the police).

Admittedly, there were a lot of unknowns in this incident.  LaBorde had no clue if the man had just stabbed someone in the church or whether he had just stolen a tablet from the church property.  Responding police officers had been investigating the robbery, knew the suspect had a knife, and were searching the area.

The suspect had apparently entered the church in an effort to conceal his location and to get away.

It is further proof that anything can happen on any given Sunday within the faith community and having a plan beforehand may be the difference between someone being seriously hurt or staying alive.

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