Table of Contents:
Incident Summary and Expert analysis:
- Timely Actionable Information Sharing
- Threat/Risk to Christian Community
- ReadySchool and Security Training
- Security Equipment and Deterrents
- Law Enforcement and Government Response
- On March 2, 2023, the Governor of Tennessee signed into law a bill banning transgender procedures for children. Then, on March 27, 2023, a trans person killed three children and three school staff members in a Christian Elementary School.
- Contradicting reports of how the shooter entered the building:some reports say the shooter shot through a door to gain entry; other reports say the shooter entered through an unlocked door to the church and walked into the school through a hallway from the church to the school area of the building. Why were all school doors locked but not all church doors were locked?
- It appears the shooter shot out the door to gain entry into the school. Further supporting the need for bullet-proof glass, doors, and walls in our schools. Fortified buildings are needed, but we must remember that the students are not only kept inside the building. We must have solutions for the times our students are arriving at school, leaving school, and going outside for recess or outdoor learning.
- The shooter had surveillance maps of the school prior to the shooting.
- Police reports indicate that the call of an active shooter at the Covenant School came in at 10:13 AM. At 10:27 AM the suspected shooter is pronounced dead.
- Interview with the Nashville PD Chief, John Drake revealed:
- There is no evidence the shooter was targeting anyone.
- The manifesto talked of maps and other schools.
- Police believe the “suspect” (Seriously ?, the suspect?) had some training to shoot.
- The shooter had sought mental health treatment.
- When asked directly, he maintains that a motive has not yet been determined.
- The shooter had legally purchased 7 firearms from five different, local, gun stores. The shooter used three of these guns in the shooting.
- News reports indicated that the pastor’s daughter, and youngest of his four children, was the main target. The daughter, Hallie Scruggs, is one of the named victims. The pastor, Chad Scruggs, has been the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian since 2018. And, the pastor of the church had been counseling the shooter.
- The shooter was identified as a “woman who identifies as trans” by Police in their Press Conference. Then they said there was no history of mental illness.
CEN Expert Analysis
Threat/Risk Increases for Christian Community:
CEN Security Consultant, Mori Fernandez, with decades experience in high profile security incident prevention and mitigation, says: The threat/risk landscape for the Christian community has increased because:
- The core beliefs of Christian schools/churches are contrary to transgender beliefs.
- The shooter is being hailed as a hero on social media encouraging further attacks on the Christian community at large.
- There was a universal call for ‘Christian Vengeance’ where a whole weekend was planned by the gender community in Washington, DC.
- There have been other citywide calls for attacks against Christians in the mainstream media which are escalating nationwide.
- There are often copycat shootings after shootings like this where a lot of media attention has focused upon the incident.
- The General Public is now more aware that most Christian schools and churches DO NOT have a security plan in place which include simple deterrents such as: bullet proof doors and windows; onsite security personnel; protocols which keep doors locked appropriately!”
To Contact Security Expert Mori Fernandez
Timely Actionable Information Sharing:
What was the Media Response to the Incident?
The media Initial Incident Report on the Nashville incident was limited to a few fact based reports and largely focused primarily on the assailants' manifesto and motives within the first 72 hours. Examples include:
One Media Watchdog Cal State University says Media Ignoring Incident. Another made the case Christian School Shootings are Rare in the U.S. While yet another outlet tied the Nashville incident to the SBC Sex Abuse Case.
Positive reporting on a faith-based narrative after the Nashville shooting was virtually non-existent. However, it did focus on the positive actions and responses of individuals or communities following the shooting. This might include stories of heroism, selflessness, and compassion, as well as accounts of how faith and spirituality played a role in helping people cope with the tragedy.
It's worth noting that the tone and focus of reporting on a faith-based narrative can vary widely depending on the specific context and the biases of the media outlet or journalist reporting on the event. This incident raises the necessity of seeking out multiple sources and perspectives in order to develop a more nuanced understanding of the event and its impact.
Who is responsible for monitoring the changing situation and notifying personnel?
CEN Public Information Officer John Phelps says: “In my opinion the local incident commander or his assignee should be the responsible party for collecting and relaying it to law enforcement, while in route. In the post event, leadership and public information officers along with law enforcement should craft the message. So all details are released by the Administrator or public information officer or both in consultation with law enforcement.”
John depicted the situation by saying: “In this incident the scenario changed in a matter of minutes. The shooter was taken down in 14 minutes but the incident was reported upon for several days afterward. This is why we need a complete ICS team in place both in the school, church, city etc.”
“In the role of the City,Church or School Public Information lead,” says John Phelps, “It is important to confirm or deny media reports and ensure all response team members have the accurate, timely actionable information at hand. Decisions must be made based upon factual data.”
John Phelps, Christian radio broadcaster and CEN Public Information Consultant reminds us: “ It is important to show firm respect, not weakness while maintaining the organizational narrative as approved by your City, Church or School leadership.”
“For example, days before the Nashville incident, Jane Fonda went on TV and told activists to kill “pro-lifers” and three days later a Wayne State University Professor called for killing the trans community. These inflammatory remarks are meant to create more chaos and confusion as well as incite people to violence which is unacceptable.” says John Phelps.
How should the Christian community respond when inflammatory rhetoric and events are being planned to target Christians?
“The Christian community should always respond with the love and compassion of Jesus, and in an attempt to listen and hear in order to understand without judgment. While in corporate worship, the Church Safety Security team in conjunction with Pastors, and local law enforcement prepare for the worst, while expecting the best, most peaceful resolution to conflict. They are always looking to de-escalate the threat. ReadyChurch and ReadySchool training helps their Safety Security teams to form effectively as well as practice for any crisis large or small”, says Christian radio broadcaster and CEN Public Information Consultant John Phelps.
“We may not know other incidents that may occur as a result of the initial incident”, says John Phelps. “In the case of the Covenant Christian School incident there was a “Trans Day of Vengeance” had been planned in DC for April 1, 2023 five days after the incident. The event was canceled due to added threat/risk. Church/School Safety Security teams need to keep informed on trends in social media, for example that may inflame further copycat incidents.”
Who made that decision and what communication needs to be issued to the Christian community in the future?
“The decision appears to be a classic De-escalation practice of the leading Police department.” says CEN Public Information Officer, John Phelps.
“I also think it was wise for the families of those students who were killed or injured or affected in any way to have the church be the spokesperson for the media. Most families are so distraught that speaking to the media is the last thing they need or want to do. It is why churches or schools that have Public Information Officers have an advantage because they have prepared their leadership for both external as well as the internal timely actionable communications which are vital in handling any incident well. It also keeps those who are trying to escalate the situation at bay.”
Who is responsible for monitoring the changing situation and notifying personnel? Is this always the responsibility of the ReadySchool Public Information Officer?
John Phelps, CEN Public Information Officer says each incident is “Situation dependent as to who monitors and notifies personnel. There should be a school based Incident Command Structure (ICS) leadership team in place to make it easier to communicate real time intelligence.”
John says the most important question to be asked is: “Which of the school incident response team has the most current and relevant information for law enforcement? The schools should have an after Incident command and control structure that provides timely notification, and uniform messaging.”
What should Christian community spokespersons do about media inciting this type of violence?
CEN Public Information Officer John Phelps says: “The Christian Community should respond, not react with a Christ Centered answer giving Hope. In the case of the Nashville incident the messages need to de-escalate rather than further inciting angst.”
To Contact Public Information and Security Expert - John Phelps
Was the Dark Web Response Similar in other Incidents?
Alex Goldenberg of Network Contagion Research Institute says the computer generated information AI proliferated the Nashville incident: “Recent hoaxes surrounding mass shootings suggest that easily accessible online tools can be leveraged in nefarious ways, deepening the crisis of polarization in US society and increasing the risk of violence. The technology is evolving rapidly, including AI chatbots that might generate future hoax manifestos and computer-generated calls that falsely declare mass shootings in progress, thus spreading terror and confusion. As technology continues to advance, bad actors will find new ways to leverage these developments to commit malicious actions more efficiently.
“The Nashville and Pittsburgh (synagogue) incidents underline the importance of addressing the dangers posed by bad actors leveraging quickly evolving computer-generative technologies to quickly amplify hoaxes and disinformation following mass shootings. As AI and other advanced technologies become increasingly accessible, the potential misuse grows, posing a significant threat to law enforcement, the media, and society at large. Furthermore, the psychology of these hoaxes on affected communities cannot be underestimated. It is crucial for stakeholders to keep a close eye on the evolution of computer/AI generative technology, anticipate how bad actors will exploit them, develop processes to identify computer/AI generated content, ensure digital provenance of tips and evidence and develop best practices for immediate response to viral hoaxes.”
Sources like the Washington Post reveal specifically how the Nashville incident was proliferated by using the manifesto on the dark web to create more escalation. Another report shows how the incident Spread to North Carolina as depicted in a Winston Salem Report. In addition, the incident also had a follow on inflammatory response related to the transgender aspect of the incident when a Wayne State Univ Professor Endorses Killing Trans People
Was the Nashville School Active Shooter Incident Depicted Accurately?
CEN Founder and President Emeritus, Mary Marr commented: “Classifying mental illness in violent attacks like the Nashville school incident is met with confusion as to who is “the authoritative source”. Is it medical mental health professionals, courts, law enforcement, or other sources without authoritative experience such as all forms of media, including social media? It would be wise to have these questions raised in the public square.”
Marr said: “The Covenant School shooter was identified by Nashville police as a “woman who identifies as trans'' in their press conference. Afterward, the police said there was no history of mental illness. Yet, the head physician at Johns Hopkins has publicly stated that Gender Dysphoria is a ‘known mental disorder.’ He maintains that any physician or medical professional who claims otherwise is not supporting positive and healthy mental health.
Some media outlets, like NBC said, identifying the shooter as transgender created confusion. Who made the decision that the shooter was not mentally ill when “Gender Dysphoria” has been classified as a mental illness in the past? This is an outstanding question that begs authoritative resolution.”
To Contact Government Affairs and Public Info Expert - Mary Marr
ReadySchool and Safe School Security Training:
CEN ReadySchool Consultant Audrey Burgher, a seasoned school principal and co-author of CEN’s ReadySchool training says: “Sadly, most Christian schools do not know how to manage a total incident like the one in Nashville, TN, including the ministerial opportunity because they have not taken the ReadySchool basic training. ReadySchool training would help them identify and set up response teams; assess their level of readiness and threat/risk accurately; increase their response capacity including how to manage a national media scrutiny, as well as training for suspicious behavior recognition and de-escalation.”
Audrey commented: Given the shooter’s manifesto referenced targeting other schools, is it possible that the shooter decided against going to a different school because this school had better emergency and security practices in place? Are you a ReadySchool?
Audrey added, “Jesus told us to be WARRIORS for God. Yet today, many are not strong Christians ready to respond with the Hope of Christ in any crisis, they are not a ReadyChristian first and foremost. This is why the ReadySchool training emphasizes the need to have all staff members in the school take the ReadyChristian training. The ReadySchool training also recommends that the church affiliated with the school complete both ReadyChristian and ReadyChurch as they are compatible with ReadySchool. If the outcomes from these three trainings had been implemented something simple like keeping the church doors locked in addition to the school would have been addressed before this tragic incident.”
“Being a Christian and a WARRIOR appear to be contradictory views which are not always connected in our modern world because Jesus taught peace and love, not war. As Christians, we believe that transgenderism is not biblical and while we want to be loving we also need to depict God’s perspective on how he views the relationship between a man and a woman according to what He says. I will always be the WARRIOR God needs me to be. I will always stand up for children and for Christians as they live out God’s directives for an abundant life.” The Bible says:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me: Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
“We must test the information that we are exposed to and upon which we make decisions (Numbers 9:13). For example, even days later the news narrative espoused by the media and, even, the Police Chief, are not helpful in reducing the inflammatory rhetoric against Christians.”
Audrey Burgher concluded: “I always knew we needed a “Blueprint for School Safety.” All schools, especially Christian Schools, now appear to be horribly targeted. ReadySchool lays out a workable and doable blueprint for creating a safe school. Christians can no longer sit by and watch as evil attempts to destroy our beautiful children and our beautiful Christian community. ReadySchool guides educators in creating safe schools as well as in developing strong Christians.”
Audrey Burgher concurred with the educator featured in the recent Christian Post article saying attacks on Christian schools are intensifying. And she said the Christianity Today article accurately reveals the need for Christian schools to have security and incident response plans in place. This is why each school needs to know: Are you a ReadySchool?
To Contact School Crisis Response Expert - Audrey Burgher
In an interview after the Nashville incident, CEN Security Consultant Dan Graeber said:“This incident, as with all school Active Assailant incidents, really tug at the heart strings of parents and guardians, school staff members, and trainers like myself who have a tremendous desire to end the violence with an approach that is very proactive so that key stakeholders are trained how to respond to behaviors of concern in a timely fashion.”
“My background in firearms training, including working with simulators to help train First Responders in appropriate techniques for stopping the violence as quickly as possible, has proven invaluable in understanding what challenges First Responders face. There are still many involved in that world that are doing all they can to get proper techniques applied to these incidents.”
When asked about the challenges to first responders as well as trained staff in incidents like Nashville, Dan said: “The challenge I see is that responsive training may be the best we can do after the incident starts. But, what if we could keep the incident from happening? What if there are identifiable trends in the progression to acts of violence and extreme violence? That thought process started my journey to advance a more prolific training that fits people from every walk of life and allows them to be the key stakeholders in their own safety. In addition to being a CEN Security Consultant, I am the Vice-President of Faith Based Initiatives with the Center for Personal Protection and Safety (CPPS) aiming to prevent incidents like these from happening.”
“The integration of the Safe Schools Tiered training with the CEN ReadySchool training creates this ideal environment when properly applied and practiced. This approach teaches students, parents and guardians, school staff, and first responders how to work together to form a safety net,” says Graeber.
When asked about how the common phrase See Something Say Something applies to this incident, Dan added: “The common phrase of “If you See Something, Say Something” is accurate, but leaves definitions based upon human assumption or understanding. If what you are seeing is not clearly defined through training in behaviors of concern it is challenging to discern what to report. You need to be able to do this in a trusted atmosphere which will take your concerns and investigate them with caution.”
Why is having all the school doors locked AND all the church doors locked important in this incident? Does it reveal a lack of basic perimeter security?
When dealing with any two different businesses that have a conjoined space, security concerns are always a bit more complex than not. The Best Practice, where possible, is to have some sort of decor correct security barrier (solid or expandable gates can be used if the air conditioning space is common and cannot be separated by an otherwise solid partition). Mutual security should always be considered, especially when dealing with youth or children as one needs to also consider the safety relative to Child Protection legalities. Well meaning visitors to the church may find themselves in the wrong area and be subject to investigation if an incident happens, Transversely, a wandering youth may find themselves in a sensitive area with all sorts of “mischievous temptations”. Access control for the whole building can be an absolutely wonderful answer to this whole question as it can be so flexible and change configuration by easy programming of ID cards.
To Contact Safety Security Expert - Dan Graeber
Security Equipment and Deterrents:
Following the Nashville incident, Covenant Security Equipment (CSE) owner and CEN Consultant Mike Marshall, said he received many calls from churches and schools to augment their security equipment. He shared a CSE blog about the need for Securing School Vestibules in this new era of school security.”
And, when asked about which security equipment and procedures which would have mitigated elements of this incident Marshall said: “Bullet Resistant Vestibules and comprehensive check-in procedures are crucial in ensuring the safety of students and staff in schools, as demonstrated by the recent Nashville School Shooting incident. By creating a secure space for visitors to enter the building and regulating access, schools can prevent potential threats and better control their environment. These measures must be implemented to prevent tragedies and prioritize the safety of all.”
How much does it cost to bulletproof a school today? Christianity Today offers up their view.
To Contact Security Equipment Expert - Mike Marshall
Law Enforcement and Government Response:
Does fourteen minutes taking down a shooter seem like a very short timeline from the call to police?
CEN Safety Security Officer Dan Graeber reminds us: “Protocols are written for all agencies with rapid response units. These guidelines are to guide the officers in what to do in the immediate moments of arrival and engagement. These protocols vary quite a bit on who has authority to engage and to what level that engagement is authorized until higher ranking officers arrive and assess the situation. In the case of Nashville, the orders seem to be very clear that rapid response units engage with a certain number of officers per team with differing firearms and engage to stop the assailant.”
The brother of one officer who responded praised and honored the officer's response in stopping the shooter so rapidly and courageously.
What was the Police Response to the Incident?
Church Security expert, Kurt Jordan said: “Law Enforcement officials all commented that the responding officer’s tactics and operational advancement were textbook and orchestrated with precision.”
Jordan went on to point out that: “With all the training methods, curriculum and tactical response variations such as DHS-“Run, Hide, Fight”, “(ALERRT) Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training”, “(CRASE) - Civilian Response to Active Shooter Response”, and countless others, it is imperative that all potential participants get some training, regardless of the origin. This is why it is important to have CEN’s ReadyChurch/School Training before something like this happens.”
“Civilians need to consider the responding officers’ primary response is to “stop the threat”/ “confront the attacker” first and foremost. It is imperative to stop the threat immediately as possible, to limit any further injuries or loss of life.”
“All triage efforts, life saving evacuation, injury evaluation and treatment all come after the scene is called “secure” and no further threat is acknowledged. Nashville PD had apparently trained for years for an incident like this which is why they were able to respond quickly according to: How Nashville Prepared for the Day It Never Wanted to Face” says Jordan.
I am also in agreement with PIO expert John Phelps, in that every responding agency, victim location, should have their PIO person in place to collaborate, discuss, and ensure the narrative is the same.
Jordan cited other articles with helpful information on how the police responded:
To Contact Church Security Expert - Kurt Jordan
What are the outstanding questions that remain as to why the assailants manifesto has not been released? Is this a hate crime? How can we learn without understanding motivation and building incident specific deterrents?
The FBI says the “manifesto is so dangerous to public safety”. What is the present danger? How can we learn from this incident to prevent others in the future? Is it a threat to a particular community, or will the manifesto enable more assailants? Will not sharing the manifesto restrict communities from preparing for any further follow on incidents? Is the concern about a backlash against the mentally ill? Has the manifesto been validated as authentically authored by the assailant? Is this a hate crime? If so, what qualifies this as a hate crime? Are all hate crimes identified consistently or subjectively?
CEN Safety Security Officer Dan Graeber says: “When information is released to the public it needs to be authenticated before release so that we know for sure we are getting the correct data out. In our modern world data can move around the world at an amazing rate and caution should be taken to ensure accuracy where possible. The investigating agency should be the gateway for all such releases. We don't really know yet if hate was the motivator, or if a possible mental disorder was the key player in effecting the assailant to take this violent action against this school. What we do know is that she did not believe she was being heard and validated and she chose the pathway to violence.”
To Contact Safety Security Expert - Dan Graeber
Why haven't we heard the valuable timely Lessons Learned from the Nashville incident?
CEN Government affairs expert Mary Marr, having served on the DHS Faith Based Security Committee for two decades reminds us of the lingering concerns which bed a response by government officials such as: A hoax shooting threat followed the Nashville incident and calls to shut down schools in New York raising the concern of copycat incidents that plague law enforcement when responding to mass casualty incidents.
Will the Justice Department investigate this as a hate crime? One open source news report calls on Government sources and openly raises the issue: Was this a hate crime and did the hateful rhetoric cause the incident qualify it to be investigated as a hate crime? Unlike in other faith based hate crimes like the Tree of Life synagogues Pittsburgh PA incident or the Muslim Minneapolis, MN mosque/school incident in years past, law enforcement nor the Justice Department have officially weighed in on whether this was a hate crime four weeks after the incident!
Yet, the Church Debate Urges Government to Renounce Transgender Procedures amid the aftermath of the mass casualties which raises the question about motive being validated in the assailants manifesto yet to be released as of this publication release. Not understanding the motive of the assailant restricts lessons learned that may save other lives in the future.
In addition to Senators like Hawley calling for an investigation into the Nashville incident as a hate crime, Congresswoman Miller called for the FBI to answer questions regarding the shooting.
Salam Al’Mayarti President of Muslim Public Relations Council (MPAC), who is seated on the DHS Faith Based Security Committee was quick to issue a press release on the incident because he knows firsthand when one faith community is attacked we are all attacked. Salam Al’Mayarti said: “The time for thoughts and prayers has passed; action must accompany this sentiment if we truly intend on making our communities safer. The shooter’s ‘Emotional Disorder’ highlights that when debating policy solutions, mental health cannot be ignored. The fact that, once again, an assault rifle was used in a mass shooting makes it clear that it is too easy to access these high powered weapons. We know that gun violence is a complex issue – one that requires a multifaceted solution. However, that does not mean that we can give our leaders a free pass.” Read the full MPAC article: Protecting Christian Institutions and Houses of Worship.
To Contact Government Affairs Expert - Mary Marr
Other related articles:
The key topics our CEN experts have addressed: Timely actionable information sharing; readiness and security training; having security deterrents in place to harden “soft targets” like Christian schools, churches and the Christian community at large; and engaging your community as well as law enforcement and government officials are all key steps for Christian leaders to take in these uncertain times. Christian Emergency Network, a team of subject matter experts in the whole crisis incident response are here to help you!
As Christians, it is prudent to pay attention to the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) report on the uptick in terrorism. While we may often associate terrorism with other religions or cultures, the reality is that Christianity and its followers are not immune to the impact of terrorism. Recent events around the world have shown that violent attacks can happen even in the most peaceful of places, and it is therefore important for Christians to be vigilant and take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety.
Additionally, Christians have a responsibility to respond in love and kindness in the face of terrorism, rather than accepting unhealthy fear and hate-mongering. As followers of Christ, it is important to remember we are called to love our neighbors, even those who may be different from us. We should seek to build bridges with those of other faiths who are also facing persecution for their religious beliefs and cultures, rather than isolating ourselves. While maintaining what we call relaxed vigilance, we must take seriously the admonition in I Peter 3 to be: “Ready to give an answer for the Hope of Christ within.”
Christians do this intentionally when we become a ReadyChristian, ReadyChurch, ReadyCity or a ReadySchool. To Learn more Contact a CEN Expert today!
Finally, as we navigate the changing landscape of global terrorism which has taken many forms, we should hold fast to our faith and trust in God’s protection for He is our refuge and strength and an ever present Help in times of trouble. While we must take appropriate steps to responsibly prepare we must always remember our very lives are in His hands. By placing our trust in Him, we can find peace in the midst of uncertainty, courage to respond to others in love, and prayer for those who may seek to harm us.
Overall, when as Christians we stay informed, get ready for the times ahead, and trust in Jesus Christ in the face of adversity we will in fact be at peace for all eternity and multitudes will come into the Kingdom for such a time as this!