North Texas Churches Review Security For Easter After New York Scare

Alan Scaia
April 19, 2019 - 8:48 am
Fort Worth Texas' St. Patrick's Cathedral

Credit: Ricks Moulton/Getty Images


FORT WORTH  (1080 KRLD) - Catholic churches in North Texas are reviewing security ahead of Easter as a result of a case in New York where police arrested a man they say was planning to start a fire at St. Patrick Cathedral.

Police say the suspect in New York was carrying two cans of gasoline, two containers of lighter fluid and two lighters. He was stopped by security and has been charged with attempted arson, reckless endangerment and trespassing.

At St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth says ushers will be at the doors to welcome people to services on Good Friday and Easter, but they will also be watching for any suspicious behavior.

"You will have a much bigger crowd this weekend, but Sunday out-Sunday in, we are still going to be vigilant," says the Fort Worth Diocese's Pat Svacina. "Two weeks from now, a month from now, we'll still be more vigilant than we were a couple years ago."

The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has been working on a security plan for all parishes called "Rings of Security" for more than a year. The diocese says it has evaluated vulnerable locations at parishes, and volunteers are now being trained to work on protection teams.

Some of those volunteers will be approved to carry weapons. The Diocese of Fort Worth says volunteers will blend in with other worshipers and "be prepared to deescalate any potential violent situations."

The diocese says volunteers are being trained to work with law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

At St. Patrick Cathedral, Svacina says the diocese uses off-duty police every weekend, mainly for traffic control.

"On large weekends like Easter weekend, there are even more off-duty officers there," he says. "Because they are Fort Worth police officers, they can call for help instantaneously if something should happen."

In 2017, Texas passed a law allowing churches to arm their own security instead of hiring off-duty police or private security.

"You're communicating to the flock, you love them enough to do whatever's necessary to protect them," says Jimmy Meeks, a retired police officer who now runs Sheepdog Seminars, which trains volunteers to work security at churches. "If somebody gets hurt. If somebody gets killed, it could just be devastating."

Meeks says the Diocese of Fort Worth has done the right thing by removing signs, reading, "gun free zone" at churches.

"Many churches, they try too hard to be welcoming. They've gone to the other end of the spectrum," he says. "There's nothing wrong with being a hard target."

Meeks says his group has led more than 300 seminars in 40 states. He says smaller churches may not have the money to hire off-duty police or private security.