LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Angelina County Sheriff's Office brought together numerous churches from across the area together with the the attempted church shooting in Cherokee County still fresh on the minds of those same ministers.
On Sept. 13, 40-year-old Rasheed Abdul Aziz was arrested for allegedly threatening the Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Bullard. Aziz had a gun and was wearing a camouflage helmet, camo pants, tactical vest, and boots when entered the church around one o'clock. According to Pastor John Johnson, Aziz appeared distressed and said that God had told him to "slay infidels."
"He said people are going to die today, that's what he said to me," Johnson said.
Johnson said Aziz entered the church through a side door, ended up in the conference room where Johnson and others were.
Prior to the shooting, the Angelina County Sheriff's Office had planned for an active shooting training for churches. The curriculum centered around churches learning how to implement a plan of action in case a shooting happens. Other topics also included how to handle open- and concealed-carry laws.
"My first thought was 'here we go again, and thank goodness we got this safety school coming up,''" Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches said.
The class used the incident at Corinth Missonary Baptist Church has a starting point in the discussion. It was important for organizer Wade McKinney to make sure churches knew that the Pineywoods is not immune to church attacks.
"It's coming close to us here," Mckinney said. "We're here in the Pineywoods and think that can't happen here. That's what happens in Chicago. We have to be protected for it. We have to have our churches and congregations ready. The Bullard situation brought it all the way back home."
The hope of the training was to get safety and preparedness into the minds of the ministers.
"We are and can easily be a target, but we are trying to give them different ideas to get a plan into action," Sanches said.
The ministers in attendance were able to walk away with a better understanding of safety and awareness for how easy their flock can fall victim to a shooting situation.
"We're on the [main] road, Tim Swanson with Crossroad Christian Center Church in San Augustine said. "It's easy to say, 'Hey here's a church; let's stop in'"
"What this does is it makes me more aware of what can happen if you are consciencious," Alfred Harrison of New Life Church said. "It lets us know we need to have a plan in place."
"We just need to be ready and be proactive and not reactive," Tim Stewart of Congregation Beth Simcha said. "It's alarming, but I wouldn't say it is frightening. We've known it is coming this way for a long time anyways. You just prepare yourself mentally for it."
Sanches said he is working with Cpt. Alton Lenderman on setting up training sessions at churches to allow congregations a more detailed look at their exact situation.