(Graphic Video Warning)

On January 16, 2015 a wedding was in progress at the Old Agency Baptist Church. Pastor Andre Jones contacted Muskogee (Oklahoma) PD to report a threat against a woman who was attending the wedding.

The woman’s ex-boyfriend, Terence Walker, 21 was outside the church armed with a gun and told the woman he had a bullet with her name on it.

“He’s here with a gun,” Jones said on the 911 call. “I need a police officer because I got to stop this. I got a whole bunch of people here and I don’t need nobody hurt.”

The officer arrived on scene and approached Walker.  Telling him to take his hands out of his pockets, the suspect quickly removed his hands but was holding a cell phone.  When the officer attempted to restrain him to check him for weapons, Walker struck the officer and ran away.

The officer pursued Walker on foot, called in his location and direction of pursuit.  While giving chase, the officer observed a handgun fall to the ground.  The suspect stopped, picked up the gun and pointed it at the officer.  The officer drew his weapon and shot at the suspect several times.

The suspect fell to the ground into a culvert.  Pastor Jones ran up into the scene and then inserted himself into the incident by begging the officer to stop shooting the suspect, asking if he could give the suspect aid.

While the officer was engaged in a highly stressful incident, the pastor’s involvement placed both the officer and the pastor in a very dangerous position.  Pastor Jones ignored the officer’s repeated order to get back and forced the officer to take his attention off the wounded suspect while dealing with the pastor’s emotional response.

The pastor’s actions placed everyone on scene, including himself, at great risk.

The suspect, while down, was still armed.  The officer called for all units to respond and the crowd was pushed back by the responding officers.

Responding officers disarmed Walker and the officer was taken back to the station while responding crews dealt with the incident.

Once You Call The Police, It Is Their Scene

Nobody knows how they will respond during a crisis event.  Seeing somebody shot is horrific, tragic, and difficult.  While one may be tempted to see this as a criticism of Pastor Jones, I do not intend it to be.  However, there is a lesson here for all of us.

One can surmise that since Jones requested the police to respond, he felt some level of responsibility for Walker’s death.  However, that would be wrong.  Further, it is natural to have a desire to save a life, and perhaps being overwhelmed, Jones simply wanted to help Walker.  I am sure he didn’t envision a police shooting in his church parking lot during the happy event of a wedding to be the end result.

It is important for everyone to remember Walker’s actions caused Walker’s death. He brought a gun to the scene, let it be known he wanted to kill someone, and when the police intervened, he made the wrong choice and now he is dead.

Since incidents like this are thankfully rare, I wanted to point out a few things should you ever need to call the police.

  1. When the police are called they are in charge. I have observed that when police officers are called to a business or private organization, there are some people who try to dictate to the police officer how the call should be handled.  From a police officer’s view, if the situation is bad enough to call the police, this means the situation is beyond a citizen’s ability to handle it effectively, so they need outside assistance.  Since a police officer is trained to handle stressful events, he doesn’t need or want advice during the incident, but would probably be happy to talk it over once the situation is resolved.  There have been many times where I was curt with someone trying to involve themselves where I had to explain my actions afterward.
  2. In a stressful event, the police do not want your help.  Good people like to help. If you are the reporting person, the only thing the officer needs at the moment of an incident is good information.  The more information, concisely given, is greatly appreciated.  In this situation, the officer was told there was a man with a gun.  The information he quickly needs is who it is, what he looks like, and where he might be at the present time. Whatever course the officer decides to take at that moment, is the correct course.  Debate can occur afterwards, but not during.  There are exceptions to this point:  If the officer has been injured, if he is injured and alone, or if he requests specific aid, then it is ok to help. If he is conscious, ask him, “Can I help you?” The best thing you can do at this point is to help your church members stay safe during the incident by keeping distance and hiding behind thick walls.
  3. Involving yourself in a police incident can be bad for you. Due to the many physiological changes occurring during a highly stressful event (tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, time distortions) and the way police officers are trained (stimulus – response), approaching an officer in the way Jones approached him, and not responding to his verbal orders to get back, left Jones at risk of being harmed (shot, punched, kicked, Tasered). The officer involved in a stressful event is afraid for his life at that moment in time,  and anything entering his field of view is being assessed as a potential threat.  The video did not show the officer making contact with anyone before approaching the suspect, so I do not know if he knew the pastor before the incident.  However, officers are taught that criminals or gang members travel in pairs and packs, and we practice multiple threat shooting scenarios.  If the officer had shot Pastor Jones because of his highly excited state of mind it would have been a tragedy.
  4. Do what the officer tells you to do.  During an emergency, arguing with an officer or not following commands of an officer is a high risk activity for you.  Police officers are taught that a subject ignoring verbal commands is a precursor to an assault.  Most reasonable people will obey a verbal command directed at them, especially when given in an authoritative voice.  Pastor Jones ignoring the officer’s verbal commands instantly placed himself in jeopardy.  The officer exercised a great amount of restraint.  In addition to risking harm, the pastor also risked arrest for misconduct at an emergency.  I am sure in the name of “friendly community relations” the police department never considered this, but not following a lawful order can land one in jail when everything is over.
  5. Keep the crowd back and stop anyone from interferring. The reason you are on a security team is because you have the ability to keep your head when everyone else is losing theirs.  You can protect your congregation and help the police department by keeping people out of the crime scene, discouraging gawkers, and directing people where to go. You can also stop a pastor from overstepping his or her bounds by directing his energy and reminding him the police know how to handle violent incidents.
  6. Although the police are present, you can still call 911.  Information is important.  Calling dispatch to let them know a medic is needed on scene can be helpful.  The dispatcher will probably know it is going on, but due to stress and oxygen depletion, the officer may not remember (or know) where he is.  Your call can help the team respond with more information, which keeps everyone on scene safe.

Thankfully no innocent people were harmed during this emergency situation.  At the end of the video, you can hear the pastor telling responding officers the officer “followed procedure” and did his job. Please pray for the officer and the church involved in this situation.

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