Pastor Calms Gunman During Church Threat
The pastor of Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Texas knew there was a problem with a man dress in camo head to walked in. Rasheed Abdul Aziz of Jacksonville was on a deathly mission.
“Every hair on my neck just stood up,” the Rev. John D. Johnson III, 45, said Monday. “It was almost like you could just like feel the presence of just negative energy.”
The 40-year-old man, Aziz, 40, was sweating profusely. It was early afternoon and he had first approached a deacon outside the church and asked to see the pastor for prayer. The 11a.m. worship service was done but people waited in after the service in reception for their musician appreciation day.
“Everybody was in very good spirits,” Johnson said. “It was a fun day.”
The deacon brought Aziz to the conference room where Johnson, who was with his 17-year-old son, was working as he requested.
While the decon introduced the man to Johnson who was give his hand out for a handshake, Aziz launched into a rant.
He proclaimed that he was a “man of Islam” and and had demons chasing him.
Johnson told him.
“You’re here at the church. What can we do for you?”
Aziz said his full name and then yelled that his God authorized him to take the lives of any Christian or Jew who conflicted with what Islam said. Using the term infidels.
The pastor who was former a parole officer had training in verbal de-escalation, crisis prevention as well as experience in dealing with mentally ill offenders. Johnson knew what he had to do.
“Immediately, just like clockwork, it kicked in,” he said of his past training.
Johnson immediately asked the man to calm down and stepped up to get between Aziz and the door to the rest of the church. He then offered to get Aziz a cool drink and asked him to sit down.
“I never gave him the power of feeling that he was in control, that I was frightened,” Johnson said. “I just continued to engage, but I was very cautious not to raise my voice or make any quick moves.”
In seeing that there might be a gun in Aziz’s pocket, when he asked him to have a seat, Johnson patted the man’s shoulder and leaned in to take a look at the possible weapon. He was able to see the bottom of the clip and at that time Aziz was becoming more and more irate.
It was then when Johnson told Aziz that he was going to take care of him but he needed to get his kids situated first.
In this excuse, Johnson was able to step out in the hall and whisper to his wife and another member, “We got a problem. Get everybody out of the church.”
“It was as if we had trained, but we hadn’t,” Johnson said.
Johnson thanked God for giving him the clarity of mind to immediately have a plan and put that plan in place.
Johnson made a decision to leave too as people loaded up in their cars.
Johnson told his wife.
“We can get another church.” “We can get more walls, but we cannot get new people.”
While everyone pulled out of the lot to the main road, Aziz flashed, what appeared to be, a peace sign in his hand. Church members also saw that Aziz was peeling out on the same road.
Amazingly, one of the church members had called law enforcement and were already on route. Johnson praised the enforcement’s response time, collaboration and character.
“It was just downright amazing the compassion they showed, the attitude, the aggressiveness,” he said.
Law enforcement officials say that Aziz may have came back to the church later in the day, Johnson said. On Monday, note was found from Aziz who thanked the church for its kindness.
“That note was in stark contradiction to what he did in deed and statement,” Johnson said.
Johnson said his congregation, which numbers about 180 members, is concerned and thankful.
“It is a community of great pride and great strength, but unbelievable compassion,” said Johnson, who is entering his sixth year as pastor. “If any place can handle this and grow from it and be an example to others, it certainly is our church.”
From this, the church decided to change how they will handle visitors. The church plans on getting security cameras, and secure the entry points better than they have in the past.
Johnson said if he could share one thing with other pastors, it would be to, “Please put security measures” in place.
“Do not get caught thinking that this only happens in other places, in big places,” he said.
Johnson is glad on how the situation unveiled.
“I just think it’s by the grace and mercy of God that we are not on the other side of history, the other side of tragedy.”
According to the news release,
“Smith County Patrol deputies found Aziz inside the Pine Trail Shores subdivision about 9 p.m. Sunday, according to a Smith County Sheriff’s Office news release. He was still dressed in camo and was armed with a pistol he was carrying in a shoulder holster.
He was charged with felon in possession of firearm and was taken to the Smith County Jail. Additional charges were expected from Cherokee County, where the church is located.
Aziz’s online criminal history indicates he has convictions for marijuana possession and served prison time for aggravated robbery.”