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Active threat discussion held at Caloosa Baptist Church in LaBelle

Mass shootings at places of worship have happened all across the nation in recent years. Those houses of faith have become places known as soft targets that killers are taking advantage of. This weekend, people in Hendry County gathered for a special course to ensure their readiness in case the worst happens.

Hendry County Sheriff’s Office hosted an active threat discussion for church members at Caloosa Baptist Church in LaBelle Sunday.

“Its just a scary time for people,” security volunteer Roger Alexander said.

The people who fill the pews at the Caloosa sanctuary are close to Alexander’s heart. He recently became a security volunteer at the church.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Alexander said.

James Hunt, the pastor of the church, said there are no chances that can be taken. The church wants everyone to feel safe. After recent shootings at faith institutions, Hunt feels it’s necessary to prepare for whatever potential threats enter the church.

“It’s very sad. We shouldn’t have to do this,” Alexander said.

This marked the first such session HCSO hosted, and Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden told us he believes this effort is critical for local churches in the wake of the tragedy in Texas that killed two people. And Hunt also felt it was necessary to focus on his own congregation after the Texas church shooting in December 2019.

“Somebody comes in, and they just open fire, it’s over just like that,” Hunt said. “So, when I saw how fast it went, and people died, it really impacted me.

During the shooting in Texas, a church security volunteer eventually stopped the gunman from injuring or killing any more churchgoers.

“It’s really scary, something I hope I never have to do,” Alexander said. “But I do want to be prepared in case I have to stand up for it.”

Whidden told us he is reaching out to other local churches to get them on board for this new initiative.

“A couple weeks ago we had the Texas, which kind of enforced why we need to do this and how important it is,” Whidden said.

After the day’s discussion, the congregation at Caloosa Baptist are a little better prepared in the event a threat enters their place of worship.

“It can happen in seconds,” Whidden said. “That’s why we need to be prepared because seconds matter when life is on the line.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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