INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 4, 2015)-- Mass shooter safety concerns are top of mind across the country and here at home after this week’s mass killing in San Bernardino, California, where a man and his wife shot and killed 14 people.
Just last week, a group of 20 Indianapolis pastors got together with the city’s Division of Homeland Security to learn how to protect their houses of worship from a rogue attack. Their congregations are largely Hispanic.
“My first response was, oh my lands, how can this happen again,” said Father Michael O’Mara, at St. Gabriel Catholic Church.
O’Mara heard the news of Wednesday’s California shooting and couldn’t believe it. But he also flashed back to a training session he sat in on last week, reminding him threats are out there.
“We seek to have an open door policy with our congregations, our churches, our parishes, and we want to know how we’re able to keep people safe,” he said.
O’Mara’s congregation at St. Gabriel is 60 percent Hispanic.
Many pastors in that group of 20 were put on alert after a shooting in June in Charleston, South Carolina, where a 21-year-old white gunman walked into an African-American church and killed nine worshipers.
“I think that people get targeted for many reasons,” said O’Mara.
“Times have changed, and these murderers are killing people at will,” said Indianapolis Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons.
The 20 pastors at that session last week got a lesson in the profile of a shooter. City officials even showed a video of a simulated scenario, demonstrating how to escape alive.
O’Mara said his church made changes. Doors stay locked during the week offering limited access. He also talked to members Sunday, encouraging them to be more vigilant if they see an unfamiliar face in their pew.
“You don’t want to scare your people,” said O’Mara, “It’s a response to the new realities that we’re living in.”
Congressman Andre Carson’s office worked with the city of Indianapolis to get the group of pastors that training.
Coons said they’ve held more than three dozen of those training meetings this year. If your group or organization is interested, you can make a request for one by calling the Indianapolis Division of Homeland Security at (317) 327-3900.