Alarming Mass Shootings in Houses of Worship Persist: Tragic Insight from The Lakewood Church Incident

By February 14, 2024 Mass Shootings, Risk Management, Security

 

This past weekend, the Houston community faced a harrowing reminder of the unpredictability of security threats as a mass shooter incident unfolded at the Lakewood Church in Houston. Our hearts go out to all affected by this tragedy, especially to the victims and their families. In moments like these, we’re reminded of the critical importance of security awareness and preparedness.

Overview of the Incident

KHOU11 gives a timeline of the events on a day meant for peace and worship. Lakewood Church was thrust into the headlines when the shooter, a 36-year-old with a history of mental health issues, approached the church with her child. She threatened an unarmed security guard with an AR-15 before entering the premises. Once inside, she unleashed gunfire in the westside hallway, leading to a swift and chaotic confrontation. Two off-duty officers working security at the church—a Houston police officer and an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission—responded to the threat, engaging in a shootout with the shooter. The encounter resulted in injuries and loss of life, including the death of the shooter herself.

The Shooter: Background Information

  • Weapon Details: the shooter was armed with an AR-15 rifle, distinguishable by a “Palestine” sticker on it.
  • Criminal and Mental Health History: She had a significant arrest record dating back to 2005, including charges for assault, forgery, theft, and more. Houston Police Department (HPD) records also indicate a documented mental health illness history.
  • Connection to Lakewood: Court documents reveal that the shooter and her mother once attended Lakewood Church, suggesting prior links to the location.
  • Aliases: Throughout her life, the shooter utilized multiple aliases, complicating her history with law enforcement.

Houston Police Department Homicide Commander Christopher Hassig described the shooter as a “lone wolf,” emphasizing that she was acting independently without any group affiliation. The shooter’s motive remains unclear; however, investigators discovered antisemitic writings by the shooter.

“We have uncovered some items, we do have some anti-Semitic writings that we have uncovered during this process.” Hassig said. “We do believe there was a dispute with her ex-husband and his family and some of them are Jewish.”

Residents of a small neighborhood in Conroe, a suburb to the north of Houston, reported unsettling encounters with the shooter who lived among them. The reports allege that she targeted, harassed, and threatened her neighbors, displaying firearms and instilling a deep fear of being outside their own homes. One neighbor recounted a particularly alarming incident where she was confronted with a handgun.

The Importance of Understanding Risks

Such incidents serve as a stark reminder of the risks that businesses, places of worship, and organizations face today. It’s not just about the potential for death and injury but about the disruption of organizational activities and impact on our sense of security and community. Understanding these risks is the first step toward prevention. It’s also about acknowledging the reality of these dangers without living in fear.

Some essential steps to increase prevention and bolster security

  • Conduct a Facility Security Assessment to make sure your security stance is appropriate.
  • Provide Workplace Violence, Security and Situational Awareness training to everyone in your organization, including Active Assailant training.
  • Practice your response to incidents of violence regularly through safety and security practical exercises.
  • Correct gaps in your organization’s security and implement appropriate security measures.
  • Be prepared and understand how to react and recover from incidents.

For a more detailed breakdown of these essential security strategies, read our in-depth analysis here.

Being Prepared for Mass Shootings

In the aftermath of the tragic incident at Lakewood Church, we are starkly reminded that diligent preparation can save lives and, in some cases, prevent incidents from occurring at all. Such devastating events can indeed be averted. Unfortunately, we can never predict when or where they might happen. Embracing vigilance and proactive security measures provides peace of mind, knowing that every possible precaution has been taken.

At TAL Global, we specialize in security consulting and risk management, offering tailored solutions to ensure your organization is well-prepared to respond to security threats. Our team of experts is dedicated to creating safer environments through comprehensive risk assessments, strategic security planning, and engaging training programs. With decades of experience and hundreds of successful interventions, we’ve consistently kept people and assets safe. Follow us on LinkedIn and YouTube for tips and strategies. You can also Talk To Us for more custom-made, expert solutions.

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