Putting Church Shootings Into Context

Photo by SJ Reidhead.  All Rights Reserved

“…The people burning down black churches in the South are generally white, male and young, usually economically marginalized or poorly educated, frequently drunk or high on drugs, rarely affiliated with hate groups, but often deeply driven by racism, according to investigators and a review of those arrested or convicted in the burnings….”

We have a very serious problem in this country.   Violence in houses of worship is increasing, drastically.  In 2012 there were 112 shootings, resulting in fatalities in 63 of those instances.  Of those 112 shootings, only 5 were in black churches. The vast majority of the remaining victims were white.  Unfortunately, those statistics don’t fit into the narrative of racism.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, at Rev. Creflo Dollar’s World Changers Church International was invaded by a well-dressed black man, Yvette Caslin.  He shot Floyd Palmer.
  • “…February of 2011, DeKalb County police were called to Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist church after shots rang out in the church parking lot. The shooting was reportedly not connected to the Pastor who at the time was battling sexual coercion charges from four men….”  The shooting was not related to the church.
  • Josephine Nichols was killed in Aurora, Colorado, at the Destiny Christian Center, in April of 2012.  The shooting was not intentional.  A felon, 29-year-old Kiarron Parker, crashed his car into the parking lot.  He was shot and killed by an off-duty cop.
  • “…In May of 2012 two Michigan men were sentenced for shooting a youth Pastor at a local community center. Michigan news outlets report that Devontae Collier, 22, was sentenced to eight months in the Kent County Jail and Jaylen Woods, 18, reached a deal with prosecutors on May 18 for their roles in the shooting of Pastor MarShon Peoples in January 2011. The two men and six others reportedly tried to attend a church event at a community center when Peoples denied them entry…”
  • In June of 2012, during a funeral for DeKalb County resident, Ryan Devon, Marcus Ventress, who was a suspect in the man’s death, and another man were killed during a fight.

Other racially motivated instances of violence include the church fires which destroyed 37 black churches in 18 months.  During the same time period, 23 white churches were burned.  The arsonists all fit the same profile as Dylann Root.

  • September 15, 1963: 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham is bombed using 16 sticks of dynamite, killing four girls and injuring 22 others.
  • The August 5, 2012 a white supremacist attacked the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, shooting six people and wounding four others before committing suicide.
  • “…April 13, 2014: A Neo-Nazi shoots and kills three people in two separate attacks outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom, a nearby Jewish retirement community….”
  • November 4, 2014: A gunman fires five shots at a mosque in Coachella,CA.
  • To me, the most shocking attack, before Thursday,  was the 1974 incident where Martin Luther King, Jr. mother, Alberta, was murdered.  I still don’t understand why a kind and gentle woman had to be murdered in cold, calculating, horror.

The vast majority of church-based violence is white on white crime.  If you look at the statistics, since 1999, nearly 35% of religious based violence ended in death. 17% was domestic violence with 12% being personal conflict.   Religious bias accounted for only 6.11% of the violence.  When it comes to denominations 22.5% of violence occurred on or in the property of a Baptist affiliation. Next came non-denominational with 21.6%, and then Catholic with 14.6%. Most church-based violence was due to crime on the premises which had nothing to do with the church, but just happened that way.

Over the past 67 years, 65 of the mass shooters had mental issues.

Global Research
Global Research
  • 2005 Living Church of God member Terry Michael Ratzmann began shooting at a church meeting at a Sheraton hotel before committing suicide, killing 7.
  • 2006: Amish School Shooting: Charles Carl Roberts, 32, shot 10 young girls in a one-room schoolhouse in Bart Township, killing 5, before taking his own life:6
  • “...In July 2008, a man walked into a children’s musical performance at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, pulled out a shotgun and began shooting. Two people died and seven were wounded. Jim David Adkisson confessed to the attack in an affidavit, saying the church’s “liberal teachings” had compelled him to kill. In 2009, Adkisson was sentenced to life in prison….”
  • August 2007, a shooting in Neosho, Missouri, pierced the heart of the Micronesian community. Shouting “Liar, liar!”  Eiken Elam Saimon, attacked the First Congregational Church with bullets. Three people died in the gunfire during the Micronesian service and five were wounded.
  • July 2006, Naveed Haq barged through the security entrance of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and shot six women, killing one.
  • “…February 14, 2010 – Richmond, California – Three hooded men walk into Gethsemane Church of God in Christ and opened fire and then fled the scene, as the singing of the choir was replaced by frightened screams. The two victims, a 14- year-old boy and a 19-year-old man, were hospitalized…
  • March 8, 2009 – Maryville, Illinois – Suspect Terry Joe Sedlacek, 27, of Troy, walks into the First Baptist Church, and shoots pastor Fred Winters dead, point blank. Several church members are injured by a knife in the struggle to capture after the attack, The suspect also had stabbed himself, but survived, when his gun jams.
  • May 20, 2007 – Moscow, Idaho – A standoff between police and a suspect in the shootings of three people in a Presbyterian Church ended with three dead, including one police officer.
  • May 21, 2006 – Baton Rouge, Louisiana – The Ministry of Jesus Christ Church – 4 killed – The four at the church who were shot were members of Erica Bell’s family; she was abducted and murdered elsewhere; Bell’s mother, church pastor Claudia Brown, was seriously wounded – Anthony Bell, 25, was the shooter.
  • Feb. 26, 2006 – Detroit, Michigan – Zion Hope Missionary Baptist Church – 2 killed + shooter – Kevin L. Collins, who reportedly went to the church looking for his girlfriend, later killed himself.
  • April 9, 2005 – College Park, Georgia – A 27-year-old airman died after being shot at a church, where he had once worked as a security guard.
  • Dec. 17, 2004, Garden Grove, Calif.: A veteran musician at the Crystal Cathedral shoots himself to death after a nine hour standoff.
  • Oct. 5, 2003 – Atlanta, Georgia – Turner Monumental AME Church – 2 killed + shooter – Shelia Wilson walked into the church while preparations are being made for service and shot the pastor, her mother and then herself.
  • June 10, 2002 – Conception, Missouri – Benedictine monastery – 2 killed + shooter – Lloyd Robert Jeffress shot four monks in the monastery killing two and wounding two, before killing himself.
  • March 12, 2002 – Lynbrook, New York – Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church – 2 killed – Peter Troy, a former mental patient, opens fire during Mass, killing the priest and a parishioner. He later receives a life sentence.
  • May 18, 2001 – Hopkinsville, Kentucky – Greater Oak Missionary Baptist Church – 2 killed – Frederick Radford stood up in the middle of a revival service and began shooting at his estranged wife, Nicole Radford, killing her and a woman trying to help her.
  • Sept. 15, 1999 – Fort Worth, Texas – Wedgewood Baptist Church – 7 killed + shooter – Larry Gene Ashbrook shot dead seven people and injured a further seven at a concert by Christian rock group Forty Days in Fort Worth, Texas before killing himself.
  • April 15, 1999 – Salt Lake City, Utah – LDS Church Family History Library – 2 killed + shooter – Sergei Babarin, 70, with a history of mental illness, entered the library, killed two people and wounded four others before he was gunned down by police….”
  • “…2010, Jan 23 — Woman killed at church parking lot, at St. Dominic Church in Youngstown, Ohio.
  • 2009, Dec 11 — Man killed at funeral services being held at the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon.
  • 2008, Nov 23 — Multiple people killed when a husband crossed the country to kill his wife, at the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church, in Clifton, NJ.
  • 2008, Mar 21 — Police investigators search for a suspect and motive in a shooting that left two people wounded outside a Suitland, Maryland church where the victims had been attending Bible study.
  • 2007, Nov 4 — Gunfire erupts at Dorchester’s Holy Tabernacle Church in Boston, injuring one.
  • 2007, Mar 11 — Woman shot and killed by estranged husband while walking into church, at Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland, CA.
  • 2000, Nov 1 — The wife of a minister at the Eagle Heights Baptist Church & Christian School, in Kansas City, MO, decided to kill her daughter (for “rebelliousness”) and then herself.
  • 1999, Jul 4 — One person killed in a shooting at the Koren United Methodist Church in Bloomington, IN.
  • 1999, Mar 11 — Three killed and four injured as a family dispute erupts at the New St. John Fellowship Baptist Church in Gonzales, LA…”

Some of the most fascinating information, and just plain statistics is that when violence occurs on the premises of a black church it is usually about crime which happens to occur on property belonging to the church. It is rarely about racism.  I don’t know about you, but I find the instances of white on white crime to be terribly revealing.  I would love to see if anyone has statistics tracing this violence back to the rise of the patriarchy movement.

The bottom line here is that there are very few race based church shootings in this country.  With the information that Root was interested in girl, who chose a black man over him, the story changes, considerably.  There are far more church shooting because of domestic violence than outright racism.  The shooting was racist, but it might also be leading to a very sick young man who did not get the help he needed.  Sick young men like that do very bad things.