White Settlement, Texas – A man opened fire inside a church Sunday morning just before communion was offered to parishioners, killing two before he was himself killed by an armed church security member.
Dramatic footage of the event was being live streamed to the internet and shows how quickly a situation can turn deadly.
The following report breaking down the video was obtained by Concealedcarry.com from James Boyer, a Global Security Analyst for an Evangelical Christian humanitarian organization.
Boyer breaks down the video from a security perspective, offers personal thoughts, and asks questions for other faith-based organizations to inquire about their own security teams.
Warning/Disclaimer: The below analysis is at times graphic in its description. This is not intended to glorify violence in any way but is a direct and factual accounting of the events. Discretion is advised for younger and more sensitive readers.
“On 29 December, a shooting occurred at West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas. Two churchgoers were killed in the event. The shooter was quickly engaged and killed by a member of the church security team, undoubtedly saving many lives. The shooter and one churchgoer were pronounced dead at the scene while the second victim passed away around 7:30 pm on the 29th.
Viewing the video of this event is critical to analyzing and understanding what happened. We do not view violence with joy, but rather a heavy heart and with the desire to learn and better ourselves should we ever have to face a similar situation.
- The event was captured on video as the service was being live-streamed. The circulated video is 34 seconds long and shows the moments leading up to the shooting and the immediate response from the security team.
- In the frame of the video, the church is moderately filled with approximately 142 people present, including the pastor and the killer. It can be assumed that some additional people are out of frame. Judging from the number of people present on the far side of the room, it is likely that there are up to 160 people in the room at the time of the shooting.
- The congregation is predominately elderly, although there are approximately ten children present in the room.
- Below, the shooter is circled in red. Note that this individual stands out by his demeanor and dress. He is wearing all black with his hood up. He is not focusing on the pastor, but rather looking around the room.
- The victims are circled in yellow. The victim who is sitting down appears to be part of the church’s security team and is involved in the response to stop the killing (more on this soon). The security team member who kills the shooter is circled in green. Note that he is looking directly at the shooter before he even begins to stand and start shooting.
- At 0:02, the shooter stands up and approaches the usher standing in the back. Both visible security team members are watching his behavior.
- At 0:12, the usher points towards the back doors in response to an unknown question. Both security team members are looking directly at the threat.
- Simultaneously, the seated security team member gestures for the shooter to “follow him.”
- At 0:13, the shooter pulls out a shotgun that was concealed in his baggy clothing and points it at the usher. At this moment, it looks like a possible armed robbery situation. At the same time, the security team member who was seated begins to stand.
- At 0:14, the security team member is fully standing and is slowly reaching for his firearm (which is located under his jacket at the 5 o’clock position.)
- By 0:16, the security team member has fully drawn his firearm. He does not have the firearm at the ready position. The articulation of clearing his jacket and reaching from behind his back has caught the attention of the shooter who quickly aims at the security team member and fires a single reactionary shot through the left side of his upper chest. The second security team member is currently drawing his firearm which was holstered near his 3 o’clock position. His movement is masked by the man next to him wearing blue.
- At 0:17 (1 second of shooting), as the shotgun is still recoiling, you can see the first victims’ blood flying toward the wall. Notice the recoil of the shotgun has surprised the shooter to the point where he loses grip of the pump on the shotgun – this indicates a low level of training. The congregation and pastor are directing their attention towards the incident and the sound of gunfire.
- Within the 0:17 second timeframe (1 second of shooting), notice the only people still fully standing erect are the shooter, the security team member who is drawing his firearm, and the usher who is standing next to the shooter. The shooter is pumping his shotgun for a second shot, the security team member is preparing to engage the shooter, and the usher is in shock and unable to react physically. Note that the pastor is beginning to take cover and younger churchgoers (red shirt in the lower left of the frame) with faster reaction times are already holding their ears in reaction to the shotgun blast in the confined space.
- At 0:18 (2 seconds of shooting), the second security team member has fully drawn his firearm and is nearly in the ready position. The shooter fires his second shot into the chest of the usher.
- At 0:19 (3 seconds of shooting), the shooter has turned towards the pastor (who is nearly fully on the ground) as the second security team member is now ready to fire. Most churchgoers are laying down or ducking in their pews.
- As the shooter takes a step towards the front of the church, the security team member fires a single shot over the heads of ducking churchgoers. This shot is fired with one or more of the following conditions: a skilled marksman with a lot of training, a very lucky shot, or divine influence. The shot strikes the shooter, apparently in the head.
- As the bullet strikes the shooters’ head, his finger jerks the trigger causing one final shotgun round to be fired towards the pastor on the stage. The pastor is nearly fully on the ground at this point. Note the woman standing up to flee is in the direct line of fire. This woman standing is likely why the security team member began to raise his gun as he shot and why the result was a headshot and not a center mass hit.
- Notice the bulge in the side of the hoodie as the bullet strikes the shooter. This is milliseconds after the bullet as exited the head, and the final shotgun round was fired towards the pastor.
- At 0:20 (4 seconds of shooting), the shooting is finished. Take a look at the immediate reaction of the churchgoers, the looks on their faces. The pastor is lying as low as he can. Note the shooting started at 0:17. In four seconds, two innocent people have been shot and the killer has been neutralized.
- The security team member makes his way towards the killer to ensure he is neutralized from 0:20 to 0:26. Note that the usher who was shot is now standing again. There is a good chance he does not realize that he has been mortally wounded due to adrenaline.
- At 0:27 (11 seconds from the first shot, 7 seconds from last shot), a man in a green shirt is attending to the injured usher and additional security team members are arriving with guns drawn.
- By 0:30 (14 seconds from the first shot), four armed security team members are covering the shooter.
- By 0:36 (20 seconds from first shot), five armed security team members are covering the shooter.
- The security team member who killed the shooter kicks the shotgun away from the corpse at 0:43.
- Also, at 0:43, four individuals are responding to the two victims, one of whom is already deceased.
- Upon further observation, the security team member picks up the shotgun to secure it (0:46)
- As the video ends at 0:46, the pastor can be seen crawling away in shock.
This church was prepared for an active shooter situation due to the unfathomably quick and professional response of their security team. The background of the security team volunteers is unknown. Without a security team in place, this tragic event would have likely been significantly worse.
As security team volunteers, particularly those who arm themselves, one must be ready to give their life to save others, as was witnessed in this video. In my opinion, the security team member who gave his life is a hero and a martyr. As we are told in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” If a security team member is not prepared to do this, they should not serve in that ministry.
It appears to me that the security team flagged this shooter as suspicious as soon as he walked in the door. Upon seeing a highly suspicious individual, two team members stayed near the individual. When the shooter stands up and asks the usher a question (possibly “where is the bathroom?”) the first security team member motions to him that he will escort him; this was a smart move.
At best, it can be seen as a friendly gesture to help someone who is new to a church. In an escalated situation, say, a potential larceny or arson situation, the security team member “assisting” is in a better position to respond. At worst, as we see in this video, the security team member can do their best to save the lives of others if an active shooter situation begins.
The speed at which other armed security team members respond from outside of the sanctuary was very quick, which is another indication that the team was on high alert.
As an FYI, here is a different angle of the sanctuary retrieved from a Google review of the church, which shows the doors into the room:
(In no particular order, just things to think about)
- What is the proper response to someone entering a church who looks drastically out of place and potentially dangerous? Does the security team practice handling situations where someone doesn’t look right (DLR)? What other personnel are notified when there is a DLR spotted? Are pastors notified? Ushers, parking lot volunteers, children’s ministry workers?
- What is the threshold for contacting law enforcement to have someone removed from the property? Is asking someone to leave the responsibility of a staff member, security team personnel, or both? Does security team personnel know if they have the authority to do this? If law enforcement is to be contacted, is there a designated person to do this? Who meets LE when they arrive and assists in escorting to the DLR?
- When concealed carrying, where do you carry on your body, and why? How often do you practice drawing your firearm from concealment? Have you practiced drawing your firearm while seated, crouched, or kneeling? Do you carry a spare magazine, and how efficiently can you reload while under stress?
- Medical team, or knowing who is medically trained, is key during and after a violent event. Medical team should be on standby to assess for secondary injuries. Secondary injuries may include broken bones or sprains from people running and falling, cuts from broken glass, observation, and treatment for shock and observation for stress-related heart attacks.
- Ability to retrieve trauma kit and the ability to use the gear in it. While tourniquets would not have helped either of these injuries, a chest seal may have.
- Tactical training – ability to quickly and properly draw a firearm from concealment as well as the ability to use cover and concealment when engaging a target. Do security team members have the ability to work together as a cohesive team/ the ability to move tactically through hallways, corners, stairs, open spaces. Does the team know the most efficient way to enter rooms depending on the type of door present (left/right-hand door, inward or outward opening, a door in the center of a room or corner of a room, etc.)
- Application of basic self-defense skills while entering a lethal encounter such as moving off the “x” while drawing a firearm.
- Sometimes, going to a gun may not be the best decision, even if you are carrying one. If the usher would have been more aware of what was happening, he could have potentially saved himself and the security team member who died by simply grabbing the shotgun and directing the muzzle towards the ground or ceiling. Although there may have still been casualties, this would have bought a few seconds for armed team members to respond that much quicker.
- Post-shooting plan. What happens with kids in the children’s area? Who is responsible for meeting law enforcement and first responders as they come on the scene? Who is in charge (security team member, security team lead, pastor?)
- It is important to know that it is incredibly rare for a single shot to kill or disable a person, especially with a pistol. There are three ways in which a threat is considered neutralized. Electronically (destroy the brain), hydraulically (bleed to death), or mechanically (typically a spine or pelvis shot). An electronic neutralization is immediate, although, as we saw in this instance, there may be a jerk of the finger resulting in one last shot being fired. A hydraulic neutralization takes time. The time it takes depends on the number of areas bleeding and the type of bleeding that occurs (venous or arterial). A person typically loses consciousness when they lose 30-40% of their blood – which is a lot.
When a person dies from blood loss, the term is exsanguination. For exsanguination to occur, a person must lose 50-66% of their blood. Finally, for a mechanical neutralization, a bullet must sever the spinal cord resulting in paralyzation or destroy the pelvis (impossible to stand when this happens). Note that depending on how this mechanical destruction occurs, a threat may still be able to shoot for some time from where they fall.”
James Boyer is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 2006-2016 serving one tour in Iraq and a three-year tour conducting Diplomatic Security at U.S. Embassies Caracas, Venezuela and Berlin, Germany.
James has a degree in gunsmithing from Colorado School of Trades (2013) and graduated with Honors from American Military University with an undergrad in Disaster and Emergency Management.
He is a certified NRA firearms instructor of several disciplines. James has over eight years’ experience serving, leading, and training faith-based security teams and is currently a Global Security Analyst for an Evangelical Christian humanitarian organization.