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Fatal Shooting Thrusts Church Security Into Spotlight Again

03/09/2009 -The murder of a Baptist preacher during Sunday service yesterday in Maryville, Illinois, has once again sparked discussion of security in places of worship,reports the Belleville News-Democrat.

"Every church really needs to prepare for these incidents before they happen because the mentality is that it will never happen here," said Jeffrey Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network, told the paper. "The biggest obstacle we have to overcome is the 'it can't happen here' mentality."

Around 8:30 a.m., a man walked into the service, exchanged words with Rev. Fred Winters, and then fatally shot him in the chest. The alleged shooter, 27-year-old Terry Joe Sedlacek, then tried to turn the gun on himself but the gun jammed. Afterward, he produced a knife and began to stab himself repeatedly until two worshipers subdued him, receiving injuries in the process.

Sedlacek, according to his family, was mentally ill, suffering from Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick,reports CBS News.

According to the Christian Security Network,crimes in and around places of worship are commonplace. Since the beginning of the year, hundreds of crimes have targeted churches in over 30 states. The organization says that 75 percent of churches polled say they have no security or emergency plans in place while 34 percent say they experienced a security incident or an emergency in 2008.

Both the Maryville police chief, Rich Schardan, and the church's assistant pastor, Mark Jones, said the church had been working on security and emergency plans, including identifying parishioners like medical workers and law enforcement officers to help lock down the church during a crisis.