MANNING - Don't give shooters recognition for their crimes, Lt. Eric Rosdail with the Clarendon County Sheriff's Office told church leaders attending an Active Shooter Training session recently at Weldon Auditorium.
"Don't name them," Rosdail urged. "Don't give them any recognition. Find the name of a victim, and tell everyone about that person. Tell everyone about the victim's life who they were and that their life mattered."
More than 200 church pastors, deacons and leaders from 82 churches in Clarendon, Sumter, Williamsburg and Florence counties attended the two-hour session.
Rosdail began the session with some history about the number of incidents involving shooters in South Carolina and nationally.
From 1988 through 2013, there were 87 incidents involving active shooters in South Carolina, Rosdail told those in attendance.
"Worldwide, the United States is ranked as No. 1 in the number of incidents involving active shooters," he said. "According to the FBI, between 1966 and 2016, there were 350 incidents. Canada was No. 2 with just nine incidents. I don't have an answer for that. Statistically the numbers here are pretty much the same in states with liberal gun laws and those states with strict gun laws."
Rosdail said that shooters have made a switch from shootings at schools to shootings at churches.
"Right now, churches are their target of preference," he added. "Large cities, small towns, strict gun laws, liberal gun laws, all denominations, it's happening across the board."
The first major shooting incident in the United States occurred a half century ago at the University of Texas in Austin, Rosdail added.
"The Texas Tower Shooter, as he became known, happened on Aug. 1, 1966," Rosdail said. "The next major incident didn't occur until April of 1999 when two students opened fire at Columbine High School in Colorado, killing 13 students and themselves."
Rosdail talked about the most recent shootings in Charleston and in Texas before he began stressing the need for local churches to make plans if a shooting incident should occur at their church.
"It was an outstanding program," Michel Richburg, representing Mt. Pleasant RMUE Church in Panola, said after the session. "It was most informative and very much needed. He covered some good stuff."
Daun Davis representing Union Cypress AME Church said the session was "very informative" and greatly needed at this time.
Pastor Myra Pearson said the session was "on target."
Clarendon County Sheriff Tim Baxley said he was very pleased with the big turnout.
"The audience had some great questions," Baxley added. "They received some information that they can take back to their churches and congregations to help keep them safe."
Baxley said he wanted to show church leaders that there were better options than having people in their churches with concealed weapons during church services.
"It is terrible that society has come to this," he added, "but we need to think about safety and the best ways to protect large numbers of people."
Baxley said he was delighted that firefighters from the Clarendon County Fire Department were present for the training session.
"They are also working with churches making plans," Baxley said.
Baxley said the short training session was the first move to helping churches put plans in place.
"My office is willing to meet with each church in the county at their church to help them put a plan in place," Baxley added. "They need to call my office and set it up."
For more information on the Active Shooter Training for Churches, call Lt. Eric Rosdail at (803) 435-4414.