Police Respond To Gunfire In Church, Find Domestic Assault Instead.

I think we can all agree, a crime in progress requires precise information for an appropriate police reponse.

In the event described below, the original call came in as shots fired inside a church, which as you can imagine, yields a fast police response.  However, it also puts officers on edge and requires officers respond with guns drawn or a tactical unit response.

Read the article below to see what I mean and the suggestions below the article.

According to KTSP.com “Minneapolis Police arrested a suspect Sunday (11/24) afternoon after a gun scare at a Scott County church. Police say the suspect, identified by police as Jonathon Herring, allegedly assaulted a woman with a gun at Hope Lutheran Church in Jordan on Saturday night.  (Incident from November 23-24)

Jordan police say Herring was apprehended after a tip led them to search a home on Chicago Avenue South. He was found hiding inside the home.

Initial calls to 911 around 8:55 p.m. reported a shot was fired inside the church, but after Jordan police arrived on the scene, they say the gun was never fired. Police believe Herring used the gun to hit his significant other in the head while inside the church.

“A domestic situation, we do have an assault, we do have a victim who was struck with a handgun,” Belle Plaine Police Chief Tom Stolee said.

The woman was able to walk to the ambulance and was taken to the hospital but has since been released, according to police.

Hope Lutheran Church was busy with a youth event at the time of the incident, so as soon as police were called to the scene they roped off a large part of the neighborhood, asking neighbors to stay indoors.

“We pulled up, got about a half mile away from our house and were told by the cops to turn around because they were searching for an armed gunman,” Jordan resident Kyle Watson said.

Herring is being held in Scott County Jail where he awaits an arraignment hearing.”

A Few Tips

In high crime areas, residents will sometimes call and report gunfire because they know police will respons faster.  I’m not saying this is what happened here, but it does happen, and the police know this.

Recently at a local Walmart store near my home, police were called regarding a report of a young man holding an AR-15 and “swinging it around” threatening people.

The police, responding to their training, arrived on scene, located the man holding the weapon (a toy replica) and talking on a cell phone.  They gave a couple of quick, terse warnings which were unheeded (unheard?) resulting in him being shot and killed by the police.

The video and grand jury examination revealed the caller had a lot to do with the outcome of the incident.

While the caller was interpreting the man’s behavior as dangerous and relaying his perceptions to the police dispatcher, the officer’s responding faced a completely different scenario than what was being painted for them by the witness.

The video revealed the man holding the toy replica, was casually walking around with the gun, and while menacing to customers, he wasn’t pointing it at people or kids as described by the witness.

In short, the police officer’s expectations were colored by the 911 call to dispatch, so his response level was much higher.  It is my belief the tragedy could have been averted if accurate information had been relayed.

The officer did what he was trained to do, but a family lost their son.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Have an appointed person responsible to immediately call 911.  There is a good chance police dispatch will be flooded with calls, but if the caller says, “I am on the security detail at First Baptist Church on Main St., we have man with a gun who just hit a woman over the head.” it will be perceived differently by the dispatcher.

2.  Train the caller to give a good description (skin color, height, weight, clothing, last known location, armed with pistol, rifle, etc., if left the building, type of car leaving in, possible plate, direction of travel.)

3.  Advise if police and medic are required.  Police will response first and secure the scene and medics will come in after it is made safe.

4.  Intervene if you feel it is necessary to protect others and you have the requisite skill and training.

5.  If the threat wants to leave the building, let him go but help the police find him fast if possible with a good description.

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