Norristown, PA – A Lansdale man, identified as 46 year old Mark Storms has been charged with Voluntary Manslaughter and Reckless Endangerment for the shooting death of 27 year old fellow church member Robert Braxton at Keystone Fellowship Church.
The police investigation revealed Mr. Braxton was causing a disturbance while trying to find a seat. Someone had reportedly tapped him on the shoulder advising him he was sitting in someone’s saved seat.
A short disturbance ensued and he refused to move. An associate pastor and a few ushers went to Braxton’s location. Seeing Mr. Braxton was calming down, they chose to leave him alone where he sat. A good application of de-escalation.
The Prosecutor described the situation as Mr. Braxton having a bad day.
A few moments later, Mark Storms approached Braxton with a handgun in his hand, displaying a badge, and ordering him to leave. Braxton responded by striking Storms in the jaw. Storms reacted by shooting Braxton twice, with one round entering above his chest, killing Braxton.
During the course of the investigation, Storms admitted to buying a CCW badge online. He remarked that he had displayed the badge in another incident (not in church) causing the person to turn around and walk away.
He was neither serving in any role as church security, nor was he a member of law enforcement. In short, he unnecessarily inserted himself into the fray and escalated the situation with a serious misapplication of force which caused a death. It is unknown whether Storms had any training beyond the CCW course.
During his arraignment the judge asked if he had any additional weapons. He stated he only had the gun used in the incident and made a claim of self defense, which gives us a window into what he was thinking at the moment of shooting.
However, I find it difficult to claim self defense where Storms inserted himself into a situation where he had no lawful purpose to do so.
- What is your church’s policy for allowing CCW permit holders to carry in church? Most states require church leadership give permission to CCW permit holders to carry a firearm in church. Although this may be a requirement, many in the CCW community carry a firearm anyway. It is a good idea to assume there are people carrying firearms in church.
- Does your church have a policy in place for who is allowed to carry firearms in church?
- If you discover a church member carrying a firearm unlawfully, what is your church’s position in pressing charges against a church member? How will your team/leadership handle the situation should it arise?
- It appears Storms, not a church security team member, does not fully understand self defense law. The law does not protect you if you involve yourself in a situation, cause an escalation of violence, and then shoot the person and claim self defense. Do you know self defense law for your state?
- If your team intervenes in a disturbance, should you have a team member stay close and monitor the situation? I’m sure the last thing anyone thought about was an armed church member displaying a badge and drawing a firearm. If they had a team member close by, could he have read the situation, intervened and sent Storms back to his seat?
- Does your team have medical equipment and training ready to go in case of a serious injury like a gun shot wound? There are interventions available for a gunshot wound that can make a difference in survivability. Does your team have medical supplies readily available for any kind of medical emergency?
- What kind of training do you do to de-escalate volatile situations? In any situation there are bad, good, better and best solutions to solving a problem. Does your team have the ability to assess and de-escalate a situation.
- Do church members know there is a security team in place who will handle situations? Have your church members been advised to allow the team to handle volatile situations?