By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Dec. 13, 2017 | 11:15 a.m.
DINWIDDIE – Just over a month ago, a gunman opened fire inside a Baptist church in the small community of Sutherland Springs, Texas, claiming the lives of 26 people, including the teenage daughter of the church’s pastor, and leaving a town in mourning.
Nearly 1,400 away in Dinwiddie, the tragedy that unfolded in Sutherland Springs has permeated borders as the faith-based community of the county will come together on Sunday, Dec. 17 for a church safety and security forum hosted by the Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office.
The forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Pine Grove Baptist Church, located at 22218 Dabney Mill Road in North Dinwiddie just off U.S. Route 1.
According to Sheriff D.T. Adams, this is the second such forum the county’s law enforcement arm has held, with the first one occurring in the wake of the deadly shooting in Charleston, South Carolina at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church where a lone gunman killed nine people as they attended a bible study service at their church.
“This last shooting in Texas really brought the subject back to the forefront,” Adams said.
In the days after the shooting, Adams, a member of Pine Grove Baptist, said fellow church members came to him and asked if he could develop some form of a program for the church, which he agreed to do while also extending an invitation to other Dinwiddie churches and members of the community to attend the potentially lifesaving forum.
“This event just snowballed from there,” Adams remarked. “I have had two different churches come into the office and ask me about doing a forum who didn’t know I was having this. I told them to come on the 17th and we are making sure we put this Facebook and everywhere we can to get as many people as we can.”
According to a flyer for the event, law enforcement and public safety officials will be on hand for Sunday’s event to help churches and their congregations develop plans that will address emerging concerns regarding safety and security in the county’s houses of worship.
Speaking to the conversations he has had with members of the community, Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office Deputy Zachary Hane said the shooting in Sutherland Springs was an eyeopener for the Dinwiddie church community.
“These shootings you have seen in Charleston and Las Vegas may hit home but perhaps not as close but, when you have something happen like what happened in Texas, it certainly does hit very close to home,” Hane said.
Adams said the efforts the county’s faith-based community is taking to keep their members safe is deserving of recognition.
“I am glad these churches are taking a proactive approach and are getting on-board with the forum,” he said.
Along with the church safety and security forum, Adams said the county has had a similar forum at various county offices on the topic of workplace violence. In addition, while the community hopes to never have a situation unfold like in other parts of the nation. the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office has implemented a tactical team that can respond in minutes to a serious situation, such as an active shooter, and be on scene faster than other resources could be, like Virginia State Police.
“We were long overdue for this tactical team here in Dinwiddie County,” Adams explained. “I think every jurisdiction that has a capability to have one should have one because of the times we live in.”
The moment that opened his eyes to the need for such a unit was the 2012 workplace shooting at the Walmart Distribution Center in the county. According to published reports, a 33-year-old man returned from lunch and shot his supervisor before turning the gun on himself and taking his life.
“We were fortunate because a team like this usually costs $100,000 to get started, but we used drug asset forfeiture money so it didn’t cost taxpayers anything,” Adams said.
The sheriff added that his door is always open to residents and business owners who want resources to keep themselves safe.
“Anyone who was called me wanting to talk about things, I have not turned them away,” he said. “If anyone in Dinwiddie wants information on something or a seminar, I am all for it. If I don’t know the answer, I will find somebody in another jurisdiction that can teach that class.”
“Dinwiddie is probably one of the nicest counties to live in,” Adams continued. “I say that from my heart because, with all that is going on in the country, it really hasn’t gotten here and we are blessed that it hasn’t, but it can happen anytime and anywhere.”
For more information on the Dinwiddie church safety and security forum at Pine Grove Baptist Church, contact Major William Knott at 804-469-4550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.