Experts: Skill, speed of security team saved lives in Texas church shooting

Video of incident will likely be used for law enforcement, security and civilian handgun training

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Church and community members, including Matt Pacholczyk, left, and his wife Faith Pacholczyk, gather outside the West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth for a candlelight vigil, Monday evening, Dec. 30, 2019. A gunman shot and killed two parishioners before an armed security officer returned fire, killing him yesterday during their service.
Church and community members, including Matt Pacholczyk, left, and his wife Faith Pacholczyk, gather outside the West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth for a candlelight vigil, Monday evening, Dec. 30, 2019. A gunman shot and killed two parishioners before an armed security officer returned fire, killing him yesterday during their service.
(Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

FORT WORTH, Texas — The security team at West Freeway Church of Christ should be commended for its well-trained response to a shooter Sunday morning, according to two handgun instructors who reviewed video from shooting.

Mark Payne, who teaches at Elite Handgun Academy in Dallas and has law enforcement experience, said the video taken during the church’s worship service showed skill and awareness among the church’s security team. The team’s quick response likely saved dozens of lives, he said.

“The thing took like six seconds, so that was pretty impressive,” Payne said. “They did a good job.”

Payne said video of what happened will likely be used for law enforcement, security and civilian handgun training.

From what he could see in the video, Payne said, church members with guns did not have their fingers on the triggers of their weapons unless they planned to shoot and did not create potential crossfire situations.

The quick draw and accurate shot by Jack Wilson, the security team member who killed the gunman, was impressive under the stress of the situation, Payne said.

Wilson is running for county commissioner in Hood County. According to his Facebook page, Wilson worked at On Target Firearms Training Academy in Fort Worth.

Bryan Proctor, a handgun instructor who teaches security classes at Go Strapped in Fort Worth, agreed that Wilson’s reaction time and accuracy were impressive. Proctor will use video of the shooting, which he said he’s watched at least 10 times, in his own handgun training classes as an example of good, quick reaction times.

“That was a very, very, very good response,” Proctor, a retired police officer with 20 years of experience, said. “That’s an amazing reaction time, and the only way you’re going to get that done is if your positioning is right, your reaction time is correct and your situational awareness is on point.”

Payne did see some areas for improvement.

In some cases, he said, the churchgoers with guns didn’t show the best muzzle discipline, meaning they occasionally had their guns pointed in the direction of someone who wasn’t a threat. The trigger discipline reduced the potential threat that created, but is something he believes the security team will look at in the future.

Payne said the shooting showed the importance of carrying a gun in a place that is easily accessible to its owner. He said proper training and practice in drawing a firearm is an important part of carrying one.

Proctor said it’s important to be able to draw a gun and change positions at the same time.

“When the bad guy tries to shoot you, he’s going to shoot in the direction or the space that you’re occupying. Draw and get off the X,” he said, the X being your original position.

The number of armed parishioners who approached the shooter after the attack could have been a concern, Payne said, if they did not all know each other, which could have resulted in “good guys shooting at good guys.”

Investigators have declined to comment on whether all armed churchgoers were a part of the security team, citing the ongoing investigation.

Payne said this is a good example of why anyone who can legally get a license to carry a firearm should do so, assuming they would train, practice and act responsibly.

“Be a responsible gun owner, take classes, practice,” Payne said. “You’re the first responder in a lot of cases.”

Payne said this doesn’t only apply to religious gatherings but at home, the store or walking to your car.

Another way the situation could have been made less dangerous was if those who were not on the security team immediately moved toward the exits, he said.

That’s a part of situational awareness, he said: knowing where the exits are, who is around, identifying suspicious behavior and remaining vigilant even when you feel safe.

Payne said people should always know their physical address in case of an emergency. A lot of people don’t know the address of their location when they call 911, making a fast and effective response by law enforcement or paramedics more difficult.

He also said sometimes people carrying a gun need to just get out, rather than confront a threat. This applies when the threat is not immediate to you or is far across a room, he said. If the threat to you or your family is immediate and running isn’t an option, he said acting in defense of yourself or loved ones is the best option.

During other circumstances, it’s also appropriate to keep your gun holstered and run, Payne said, such as when official armed security or police are around. Drawing your gun could lead to you being mistaken for an attacker, he said.

“Sometimes the best thing to do is be a good witness, not a hero,” he said. “It’s harder to hit someone who is running out a door.”

Proctor says he hopes others working security will learn from this incident. He was in church when the video was sent to him, and he went into the lobby, showed it to the security team there and briefly ran through the same lessons there, he said.

———

©2019 Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

More in Security Executives