Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pastor Warning - Church Security

Church security has become a serious issue in recent years. But, it has just been taken up a notch.

Authorities have now warned clergy in Anadarko, Okla., to be vigilant days after a Pentecostal pastor was found brutally slain in her own church. An autopsy determined Carol Daniels died of "multiple sharp force injuries" but police have not released further details. "This is the most horrific crime scene I've ever witnessed," District Attorney Bret Burns said.

Authorities are now warning pastors that they should take precautions at their buildings, even as police refused to say exactly what happened.

District Attorney Bret Burns, who described the killing as "horrific," held a closed-door session with about two dozen pastors, along with members of law enforcement. Several pastors who were there said authorities did not discuss any facts of the case.

"We talked about security issues within their churches and their congregations," Burns said. "We asked them to remain vigilant and be aware of their surroundings and their church locations." He did not say why the meeting was held just with pastors rather than the community at large, or what kind of a threat the clergy might face.

The body of 61-year-old Pentecostal Pastor Carol Daniels was found Sunday in the Christ Holy Sanctified Church in Anadarko. A preliminary autopsy found she died of "multiple sharp force injuries," but law enforcement declined to elaborate and have been tight-lipped about details of the crime or a possible motive.

Burns did not rule out the possibility that the killer specifically targeted a pastor or a church.
"There are a lot of things we're not prepared to rule out," he said. "I'm concerned about the nature of this crime. I'm concerned about the community."

No arrests have been made, and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Tracy Schumpert, pastor of the town's First United Methodist Church where the meeting was held, met afterward with a worker from an alarm company.

"I think we'll take precautions," she said. "But I don't feel overly fearful.

"You want your church to be accessible, but you also are aware of what the world is like and you're aware of the people you minister to and take precautions."

Ben Sullivan, executive director of the Christian Center of Anadarko, which runs a soup kitchen and food pantry, said he's not fearful of another attack but plans to tighten security at his facility a few blocks away from where the killing happened. He said the center will probably close before dark and volunteers will work in pairs.

"We're always keeping our eyes open because of the work we do. We deal with people that aren't in the best of situations," he said.

Daniels, who lived in Oklahoma City, made the 60-mile drive to Anadarko every week, even though the small, weather-beaten church had no regular congregation.

On Wednesday, a makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, flowers and a candle stood at the front door of the church, where a sign with Daniels' name read: "God Loves You!"

Police are warning local religious leaders to secure their churches telling pastors, "be safety-conscious with their staff and their surroundings."

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