Killing in the church

The Minnesota connections to the Colorado shootings Sunday at Faith Bible Chapel campus in Arvada and at New Life Church in Colorado Springs are growing.


One of the dead, Tiffany Johnson, was from Chisholm. One of the wounded is from Burnsville, and Jeanne Assam (shown), the armed woman (whether she was a guard or a parishioner is still in some dispute) who shot the intruder dead is a former Minneapolis cop, according to the Denver Post.

“I give the credit to God, and I mean that. I say that very humbly. God was with me, and the whole time I was behind cover — this has gotta be God — because of the firepower he had versus what I had was God,” Assam said. “And I did not run away. I did not think for a minute to run away. I just knew that I was given the assignment to end this before it got too, too much worse. I just prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me. I just said, ‘Holy Spirit, be with me.’ My hands weren’t even shaking.”

It’s difficult to listen to Jeanne Assam’s account (Video) and not think of the character of Lt. Jackson in Saving Private Ryan, the marksman who quoted Scripture as he fired, presenting the same non sequitur to us then, that the Colorado shooting gives us in so many ways. A crazed killer assaulting a church? Horrible. A pastor of a church needing an armed guard? There’s something you don’t hear about every day. So far my check of some megachurches in Minnesota has not revealed a similar arrangement.

The’s (Lakeland, Fla.) religion editor, Cary McMullen, raises the obvious question for debate…

And I’m also wondering whether it is really a good thing for churches to have armed plainclothes security guards. I say this as a former pastor and elder. In 1974, the mother of Martin Luther King Jr., and a deacon, were killed by a disturbed man who opened fire in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where King’s father was still the pastor. The gunman was overpowered and sentenced to prison. The elder King, known to all as “Daddy” King, like his son, had faced danger throughout the civil rights era, yet the church didn’t barricade itself or hire guards, and Daddy King dealt with the tragedy of losing his wife with calm and courage. I don’t know. Maybe the situation is different now. But is it, really?

It is, some of McMullen’s readers suggested. An assault weapon makes it so.

Being that she’s hailed as a hero, Assam is likely to get even more publicity. But one of the most curious factoids in the aftermath of the shooting, comes from a police union official in Minneapolis who told the Star Tribune she was fired because of “truthfulness issues.”

The dead-tree edition didn’t elaborate, but the online version says…

Lt. Robert Kroll, vice president of the Minneapolis Police Union, said Assam was fired in the late 1990s over “truthfulness issues.” In an internal investigation, Assam had denied she used derogatory language in an encounter with a citizen in the late 1990s, but a videotape proved differently, Kroll said.

Assam appealed and the firing was upheld by an arbitrator. Because police personnel files were not available late Monday, Minneapolis Police Department spokesman Jesse Garcia said he could not provide details.

The story may outlive the usual school and mall shooting lifecycles. There’s a little bit of everything in this story: violence, megachurches, concealed carry, home schooling, privilege, a devout Christian ex-cop with truthfulness issues, and the role of the Internet in spreading anti-Christian dogma.

  • I’m also wondering whether it is really a good thing for churches to have armed plainclothes security guards.

    I think the only thing that’s self-evident in this story is that the answer to this question, at least in this narrow case, is “Yes.”

  • Bob Collins

    I think that’s the conclusion of that particular debate in this case, yes. It’s hard to argue — at least for me — against preventing, perhaps, dozens of deaths in this case.

    But, like I said, there’s a little bit here for everybody. The blogs, as you might expect, see this as affirmation for concealed carry. And it’s hard not to reach that conclusion in this case. The anti-gun crowd, however, points out that the perp had an assault weapon. So did the guy at the mall.

    This is a church with 10,000 members. From the accounts I’ve read, he never made it more than a few steps in the door of the church. Colorado being a concealed carry state, I wonder how many in the sanctuary were prepared to open up on him?