SIERRA MADRE (CBSLA) — Leaders of small churches across the Southland are looking at security in the aftermath of Sunday’s Texas massacre.
As KCAL9/CBS2’s Laurie Perez reports, these church leaders are now doing serious safety checks, realizing nowhere is a sanctuary from violence.
Sierra Madre, population 10,000, could be considered a tiny Bible Belt right here in Southern California. Church after church dot a landscape that’s just 20 miles from Los Angeles but in some ways feels like 200.
It’s in small places and small parishes like these where, maybe especially, people feel kinship with First Baptist of Sutherland Springs.
“People are thinking twice about going to lots of places, and now church is on that list, right?,” asked Rev. Francisco Garcia.
Rev. Garcia is chaplain at a Sierra Madre school and pastor at a church in Inglewood.
“As a priest I now have to think about, on a Sunday morning, you know, I have to look at the exits, I have to think about in the event something should happen in my congregation what are we gonna do?,” said Rev. Garcia.
Pastor Gary Johnson is trying to answer that. At his Hemet church just two weeks ago, along with the Sheriff’s Department he hosted active shooter training for more than a dozen local pastors.
“You have to plan a second, a third, exit plan. The next thing is, somebody has to tackle this guy, has to take him down,” said Pastor Johnson. “That’s finally what happened in Texas but it took a long time so if you have people in your church that are prepared to do this.”
An ex-Marine, he says everyone, even clergy, needs to be ready to “encounter the enemy,” so places of peace stay that way.
“We can’t just stop there with our hearts going out to them. We’re pastors, we need to protect the flock that God’s given us,” said Pastor Johnson. “So that’s why I’m doing this thing, that’s why I’m encouraging others to do the same thing. To be prepared.”
Pastor Johnson says the Riverside Sheriff’s Department was more than happy to set up that training with his church and the other pastors. And that’s why he’s encouraging other pastors across Los Angeles to reach out to their Sheriff’s Department to do the same.