Since the Charleston shooting last month, the Church Security Alliance has been contacted and visited by thousands of people interested in helping their church with safety and security. What I have also noticed is an unwillingness on the part of many people to allow violence to happen in their church. While we have been trying to sound the alarm for the past eight years, the Charleston incident has been a wake up call. The following two select incidents of the numerous that happen every week demonstrate the need for quick action to resolve potential violence and to alert the authorities.
Incident #1: Pastor Punched In Pulpit
According to WALB News, a
“Phenix City, Alabama church is on edge following a bizarre incident that unfolded during Sunday morning service this past weekend.
The order of service at Bethel AME Church on Highway 165 was going as planned on Aug. 2, when a man barged through the front doors and aggressively walked up the aisle – straight to the pulpit.
The man acted out just as Pastor Jesse Grooms was about to read a scripture to the congregation.
“He punched me and started ranting and raving saying, ‘I told you, I told you,’ and I’m like, ‘what in the world are you talking about?’” Pastor Grooms uttered.
The church’s chief of security and member Preston Robinson said he was in the choir when Willie James, 57, slammed his Bible on the podium and attacked Grooms.
“It was unbelievable; it happened so quickly. What was going through my mind [was] is this going to be another Charleston?” Robinson said.
Fear ran through everyone’s minds as children in the pews began to cry and the pastor’s wife, Amanda Grooms, fainted.
“Sunday was a day that I’ll never forget with all that’s been going on in the world – Charleston and church bombings,” Amanda said.
Even though James does not attend the church and the pastor was not familiar with him, Pastor Grooms said he allowed James to speak to the congregation the previous Sunday, July 26.
“On that Sunday, he asked if he could have a word and because some of the members knew him and he knew them. I allowed it, but he went off on the people and I was offended by that,” Pastor Grooms said.
According to the pastor, James told the congregation, “If you mess with me, God will kill you.”
James returned the next Sunday on an alleged mission and was removed by the stewards of the church without incident.
Robinson also used his experience as a former Phenix City police chief to defuse the situation and pat James down. Robinson said no weapons were found on him.
On Aug. 3, the pastor filed a police report and James was arrested for harassment, a misdemeanor that holds a penalty of $500 and or 30 days in jail.
He is scheduled to appear in Municipal Court on Sept. 9.
James is believed to have been caught on surveillance camera, a system that’s now being upgraded and security beefed up at the church to ensure everyone’s safety”
Incident #2: Pastor Tackles Robbery Suspect In Sanctuary During Attempted Robbery
According to WESH.com
A local pastor and his family said they disarmed the gunman who was trying to stage a holdup in the middle of a Sunday sermon. It happened at The Door Christian Fellowship Church in Melbourne.
In audio recordings of the incident, you can hear the victims speaking to the suspect.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I just need your money. Get on the floor,” the suspect is heard saying.
“We don’t have any money. We’re poor, Johnny,” the victims said.
The suspect, John Grace, appeared before a judge on Monday.
Police said Grace told people inside the church to tie themselves up with zip ties that he threw at them.
“When I knew there was a problem was when he took a gun out of a bag and put it to my mom’s head,” said Rev. Les Snodgrass, pastor of the church.
No one was hurt, but the events have left the family somewhat shaken up. They said Grace, who was described as an angry church parishioner, came into the Melbourne church, demanding cash. They said it was a team effort to take him down.
It happened in the church sanctuary. The attempted robbery was recorded on a laptop in the corner, which is usually where they record the Sunday sermon each week.
“Johnny, what’s wrong? Johnny please. Johnny, you need to talk to me,” Snodgrass is heard saying in the recording.
Snodgrass was able to grab Grace.
“I tell my family it’s almost like an angel gave me a little shove. But the next thing I know, I had him against the wall and my son leapt about 6 to 9 feet from the platform on to him,” Snodgrass said.
“I managed to get over there in a split second. I just started punching him, he went limp and then my dad was able to get the gun away from him,” said Darius Snodgrass, the reverend’s son.
Marie Snodgrass, the reverend’s wife, held a stun gun on Grace until police arrived. She said her family had actually just been talking about the church shooting in Charleston.
“I’m grateful to my children and husband for being the man that I’ve always known he is. Yesterday I witnessed the man my son has become,” Marie Snodgrass said.
“All these things play through your head, and we had been discussing it and was like, well, if something ever did happen like that I’d do my best to protect my family. I give God all the glory for what he did,” said Darius Snodgrass.
“He may have wanted 15 seconds of fame, but now he’s probably going to get 35 to life,” the reverend added.
“I do forgive him. I don’t hate him or wish harm on him. I just want him to face consequences,” Darius Snodgrass said.
The gun ended up being a BB gun.
Grace is charged with robbery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault and false imprisonment. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.”