A central Missouri church official says he’s more concerned about a disaster endangering his congregation than an active shooter. During a mid-Missouri forum Thursday night to discuss church security measures, Deacon Francis Butel of St. Martin’s Church near Jefferson City tells Missourinet he hopes his church will consider an evacuation plan.
“As one watches the news, you get the feeling that you are under threat all the time. I know that is not necessarily true here, at least in the middle of the country. It doesn’t seem like it should be, but there are always incidents some place. We have to be aware of the possibilities,” says Butel. “Parish council has been talking about what kind of security measures we might put in effect at our parish. What do we do in case fire erupts, especially like when we have a big crowd at Christmas or Easter? How does one get out? Where do we go? I don’t think we really have a plan for that at this point and we need to consider those.”
Butel says his parish might have to also consider locking some of the doors during services and getting security cameras.
“I had not thought either about the possibility so much of some disgruntled person, someone who has been jolted by a husband or wife. That person could come as a threat intending for it to be to their ex-spouse, but it could be a threat to everyone,” he says.
Jefferson City Police Captain Doug Shoemaker tells Missourinet many schools and churches are uncomfortable talking about potential threats because doing so indicates they are prepared for the worst. He says the point is to have the conversation because churches and schools are considered “soft targets.”
“To us, it’s no longer a situation where we want to bury our heads in the sand,” Shoemaker says. “Preparations may seem like we are preparing for the worst and in some cases we kind of are.”
He says having many churchgoers carrying concealed guns to services does not necessarily put Missouri in a better position to deal with an active shooter.
“The last thing we want to do if we have an active shooter is, we know we have one threat, all the sudden it comes multiple perceived threats. We don’t know who the bad guy is necessarily,” he says. “That becomes that much more dangerous, not only for us but also for the parishioners. I think we can all agree probably there are more firearms within the mid-Missouri area. Does that make us safer? Maybe yes. Maybe no. It depends really on how people react.”
Shoemaker says his department handles a variety of response calls at churches, including thefts, disturbances during services and threats.
A person in the crowd of about 200 asked what law enforcement officials there think of “No Weapons Allowed” signs being posted at churches. Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler says putting up the signs can be an invitation for violence.
“I like signage but bad guys don’t read those signs,” says Wheeler.
The forum was held at Missouri Farm Bureau headquarters in Jefferson City.