Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammo

The security guard who killed gunman in Colorado is part of a growing trend.

ByABC News
February 26, 2009, 7:53 PM

Dec. 11, 2007 — -- Volunteer security guards like the woman who confronted the gunman at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., this weekend are part of a growing trend at houses of worship around the country.

More of the country's 1,200 megachurches places that attract more than 2,000 parishioners per week are hiring guards or assigning armed parishioners to patrol, according to insurance executives and church officials.

"We urge every church to form a security and safety team," said Eric Spacek, the senior church risk manager at the GuideOne Center for Risk Management, which advices houses of worship on security procedures.

"Some churches have their own volunteers doing security, some contract it out to a security company, others hire their own guards like off-duty cops. We see controlled access, keyless entry doors, video surveillance and other measures taken by congregations."

Yet, violence remains a small part of claims made to the firm, according to Spacek. Five percent of church claims are crime-related and of those 80 percent are for theft and burglary with less than 1 percent related to violence on church property.

Jeanne Assam, a former cop in Minnesota, killed Matthew Murray, 24, in the hallway of the New Life Church, Sunday. The 42-year-old parishioner was hailed as a hero by the church's senior pastor, the Rev. Brady Boyd. "She probably saved over a hundred lives," Boyd said, adding that Assam had used her personal weapon.

Normally, Assam was Boyd's personal security guard but due to reports of the shooting at a Christian ministry near Denver earlier in the day that left two dead, she was reassigned and stationed in a rotunda of the church.

"That's the reality of our world," Boyd told reporters Monday. "I don't think any of us grew up in churches where that was a reality, but today it is."

The stationing of an armed guard and the presence of a few dozen other guards patrolling the church, which contained 7,000 congregants at the time, helped prevent a bigger tragedy, according to experts in church security.