Detective: Take back your churches

By Paige Nash

Following a recent terrorizing incident at a local church in Sibley, owner of Nine & One Tactical, LLC and former Minden Police Department Detective Ryan Barnette voiced his concern, explaining the importance of church security – and he did not hold back.  

“Speaking specifically to congregations, ladies and gentlemen, you are your own first responders because you are the only ones who will be at 100 percent of your own emergencies,” Barnette said. “So, plan ahead for violence and, above all, train. Train your mind and your hands and your feet. Train with medical equipment and be prepared to keep someone alive long enough to get them to a higher level of care. Train your body. Strong people are quite simply harder to kill. Train with your weapons and become proficient. 

“Fighting is 95 percent mental, so be ready for violence and take back your churches,” he continued. “Take back your security. Draw your line in the sand and tell the bad guys ‘Not here! Not in my church!’ Don’t allow yourselves to be another statistic, or worse, a helpless group of victims. As individual partitioners you should be an asset to the rest of your congregation, never a liability.” 

Barnette has dedicated most of his adult life and career providing others with the skills and confidence to protect themselves. His company, Nine & One Tactical is a training company in Northwest Louisiana that offers realistic, relevant & progressive training in firearms, personal defense and active shooter scenarios.

He says every church member should ask themselves these questions:

“If you were accepting resumes for people to come into your church and protect your congregation from a violent killer, would you hire yourself? Would you accept your own resume? If the answer is ‘no,’ then it’s your responsibility to fix that because you are the front line of defense against evil. Bad guys often spend their entire lives getting very good at doing bad things. How much time are you willing to spend, to get good at stopping them?”

Nobody ever thinks it could happen to them. They never think they will bear witness to such a tragic act of violence, but it happens. It happens in this country’s schools, businesses, movie theaters, on the streets and in churches – a place that is supposed to serve as a place of worship and peace. It’s a place where the doors are open to all sinners alike, no matter gender, nationality or denomination. 

“A church service is a gathering of people in a confined space. It makes them ‘fish in a barrel,’ so to speak,” said Barnette. “The people who attend church services are generally good people with no violent intent toward others. Therefore, most churchgoers don’t live high risk lifestyles by putting themselves in situations where they are likely to experience violence, which means, often times, they haven’t prepared themselves for violence either.” 

It is reasons like these, that make churches a soft target for violence. A soft target is a place, person or thing that is easily accessible to the public and relatively unprotected. It is common to see strangers walking in the door, sitting amongst the congregation, welcomed by the church leaders. 

 This is exactly what happened last week in Sibley. A gentleman walked through the front door, sat down in the front pew, knelt before the altar and began praying aloud. Not an uncommon occurrence in most churches, but it is what the gentleman was saying that put everyone on edge.  

According to a Facebook post made by part-time Minden Police officer and church member, Jared McIver, the man began growling and saying things like, “We need to kill off all these so-called Christians and kill everything and crush them.” 

Luckily, the congregation was able to exit the church without incident. The Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office was dispatched and arrested the man on terrorizing charges. 

This incident could have gone a lot of diverse ways. Over the years, there has been a rise in house of worship shootings taking place across the country and reinforces the importance of churches having a clear security plan in place.  

Church security is a controversial issue. Since many church leaders see the building as a place of peace, they may be reluctant to put these safety measures in place. When people come to their chosen house of worship, they want to feel sheltered and secure. 

“First, understand that feeling safe and being safe are two different things altogether. Everyone wants to be safe, but in reality, we must settle for feeling safer,” said Barnette. “The notion of complete safety is a complete fallacy and before anything can be done to make any person or any environment safer, the people involved must understand and come to terms with the fact that bad things can happen regardless of any security measures put into practice. By implementing sound security measures, we can mitigate danger, but we cannot eliminate it.” 

Barnette suggests having a designated security team within the congregation, persons who are armed and have received “realistic, relevant, and recent” training. This team, coupled with functional security cameras and volunteers willing to monitor them are all steps in the right direction. 

The reasons for having a clear security plan in place are not only in the case of an active shooter, but for more common reasons, such as a domestic violence dispute, a child custody issue, fire, severe weather, heart attack or other health-related emergency.  

“Human lives are sacred and having a plan to save human lives is paramount. We were created in the image of The Lord, and He tells us that our lives have value and that we are loved,” said Barnette.  

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