South Carolina Church Shooting Raises Concerns About House of Worship Security

Houses of worship throughout the nation are reviewing security measures following the massacre at Emanuel AME where nine people were killed.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Houses of worship throughout the nation are seeking to upgrade security following an incident in South Carolina when a man opened fire and killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church.

Police arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who is suspected of the massacre, in North Carolina on June 17.

Officials said Roof, who is white, spent an hour in a prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church before standing up and telling attendees he was there to shoot black people, 9 and 10 News reports.

Among the victims included South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was the church’s pastor.

The police released images from surveillance footage of the suspect and said he had been seen leaving the church in a black, four-door sedan that was also captured on video. By midmorning the following day, they suspect was identified as Roof.

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Authorities asked individuals to lookout for the car he was driving, a 2000 Hyundai Elantra GS.

Roof was as arrested in Shelby, N.C., during a traffic stop” shortly after 11 a.m., The New York Times reports

The latest incident raises security concerns at houses of worship.

A church security specialist, Carl Chinn, estimates that there were roughly 176 violent incidents – 74 of which were deadly – in houses of worship, NBC News reports.

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The majority of approximately 350,000 house of worship in the United States have not been attacked, according to statistics. However, following a 2013 incident where a gunman killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the federal government released its first-ever recommendations for keeping houses of worship safe.

The report recommended churches, synagogues, and mosques form a team that collaborates with first responders to come up with a plan should there be any emergency, including active shooter situations.

A group of churches in New Jersey have already planned a meeting to learn more about security. Homeland Security officials warned church leaders about a year ago that homegrown terrorists might target churches, reports.

St. James AME church, which is located in Newark, N.J., plans to increase its security. The church already had armed guards on campus on Sundays and Wednesdays to patrol the outside and guard against car thieves.

Meanwhile, some mosques have increased security camera measures due to several burglaries this year, and will review other security measures because it is now the month of Ramadan and many mosques will have an increased physical presence.


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