SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Evangel University is hosting the Security Operations Summit to train church teams on how to keep congregations safe.
Church security teams from all over are in Springfield to learn from various speakers.
One of those includes Stephen Willeford, who is a survivor of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
Willeford lived across the street from the church when the gunman opened fire.
“November 5, 2017, a shooting happened at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas,” said Willeford. “As I ran across the street, I yelled out. He heard me yell. He came out of the church shooting at me with a pistol. He had dropped his rifle in the church and started shooting at me with a pistol. I was able to hit him six out of six rounds. He fled the scene in his own vehicle. We chased him 11.6 miles. In the end, police say he committed suicide.”
The shooting killed 26 people.
“To have the ability for those folks who have been there to share the knowledge and to share the lessons learned is so impactful for these folks,” said David Dixon with Faith Based Security Network.
Dixon said churches and schools can be viewed as soft targets for shootings.
“God forbid that it ever does happen, have the tools to manage the first five to seven minutes until the calvary can get there,” said Dixon. “Until the local responding law enforcement can get there and provide support. It’s amazing how many churches across the country are now forming some kind of team.”
Dixon said, unfortunately, there’s still a lot of denial that mass shootings can happen in certain areas.
“If you think it can’t happen where you are, remember, Sutherland Springs had under 600 people. It can happen anywhere,” said Willeford.
Talking about the subject, organizers said, can help.
“I think conversations are healthy,” said Dixon. “I live in this active shooter world, and it spurs conversations of how we can be better.”
The conference will wrap up on Saturday.
Those with Evangel University said they are excited to host the event this year.