FBI, IMPD to Lead Active-Shooter Training for Religious Leaders

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FBI, IMPD to Lead Active-Shooter Training for Religious Leaders

Civil rights group warns houses of worship are ultimate "soft targets" for would-be mass killers

(INDIANAPOLIS) - The FBI will join Indianapolis police Sunday to train local religious leaders how to keep their houses of worship safe.

The three-hour session at the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation will cover how to spot potential gunmen before they open fire. There'll also be training on how to respond if a shooting does happen.

Baptist minister Markel Hutchins chairs the Atlanta-based civil rights group Movement Forward and the group's "One Congregation, One Precinct" security initiative, which is coordinating the training session and others across the country. Hutchins says he never would have expected that active-shooter training would be a central part of leading a congregation -- but he says it is, and says pastors, rabbis and imams need to acknowledge and act on it.

Churches aren't the only "soft targets" for mass shooters, but Hutchins says they're the most abundant one. He points out every house of worship brings a large group of people under one roof every week. And unlike bars, malls, and other recent targets of mass shooters, Hutchins notes nearly everyone in a church, synagogue or mosque has his back to the entrance. 

Grant Mendenhall, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Indianapolis office, says there's been a noticeable uptick in attacks on houses of worship. In the last 10 months, synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and California killed a dozen people. And U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler notes a man convicted of vandalizing a Carmel synagogue had originally been plotting to blow it up.

Rev. Markel Hutchins (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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