The Florida shooting at Douglas Stoneman High School left 17 people killed, a stark reminder that it could happen to anyone and anywhere. On Friday evening, The Chemung County Sheriff’s office hosted an active shooter training session for religious centers, to show them how to prevent and handle similar situations.
“The thought that you are going to have to know what to do in an active shooter situation, is just foreign as a pastor,” Reverend James Bodley, Interim Pastor at the Park Church in Elmira, said. “If law enforcement, sure absolutely, but as a pastor of a church, it is not something I’ve ever expected I’d need to do.”
The Sheriff’s department called it a sad reality of our society.
“I ended up more hopeful,” Bodley said. “One of the things we learned, is that someone who is an active shooter is usually someone the congregation knows. For me, as a pastor, It says I can work with that individual beforehand, to ask how life is going.”
The Sheriff’s office says it is important to recognize and report suspicious behavior. That behavior can be a combination of anything from violent fantasy content, anger problems, fascination with weapons, and boasting combat proficiency.
Christopher Moss, Sheriff of Chemung County, says the biggest take away from the session is to have a plan.
“We didn’t have a plan before this,” Eric Williams, usher of Word of Faith Church, said. “Therefore we are going to carry out a plan now, escape routes, delegating different members to do different things, what we learned today.”
Sheriff Moss says he does not encourage it, but as long as you have a pistol permit, it is up to the Church to decide whether they will have someone at the congregation armed.
The next training session will be Wednesday, February 28th, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.