At Marfa police presentation, church leaders learn defense against active shooters

MARFA — Marfa Police Department last week gave a seminar on active shooters and other mass murder events for church leaders in the Marfa area.

Over a dozen church leaders showed up to the evening lesson, which was held last Tuesday evening at First Presbyterian Church. Marfa police chief Steve Marquez, who ran the training, said that the ministerial alliance had requested the lesson.

We did this for the school,” he told The Big Bend Sentinel.  “Now, we’re doing it for the churches.”

With two mass shootings in West Texas this year, the goal of the program was to help people understand how to stay safe should tragedy strike, he said. He also saw the lesson as part of his efforts to strengthen bonds with Marfa community members.

We’re letting people know we’re out there,” he said. “This is a way of giving back to the public.”

The training consisted of a slideshow and a question-and-answer session. The slideshow was based on Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, or “ALERRT,” which uses statistics and other studies to help authorities better understand how spree killers think.

While ALERRT is primarily a law enforcement tool, its lessons can be useful for ordinary civilians, Marquez said.

Take it back to your churches,” he told the church leaders. “Assess your problem areas, and get everyone on the same page.”

To start off the training, Marquez clarified that it wasn’t just mass shootings. People could also commit mass killings with large vehicles or other weapons.

Authorities call these “active attack events” to differentiate them from gang- or crime-related mass killings, he said.

He also outlined some basic facts about active attack events and the people who perpetrate them. Mass killers are deliberate, focused and detached, with an “avenger mindset” and a “bully mentality.” They also tend to issue some kind of “broadcast,” such as a manifesto. And most of the attacks happen in commercial areas like malls or stores, according to the presentation.

For civilians, the basic principles of ALERRT are pretty straightforward. People should ADD — Avoid, Deny, Defend. Start by avoiding or running away from an attack, and then try to deny the attacker entry by barricading or locking doors. Defend as a last result.

The short question-and-answer session focused mostly on logistics, like whether people can text 911. But Jose Cordero, pastor of New Beginnings Church of the Big Bend in Marfa, instead offered encouraging remarks.

We appreciate you and we pray for you,” he told the officers.