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Local clergy reacts, discusses safety following deadly Alabama shooting

Local clergy reacts, discusses safety following deadly Alabama shooting
Updated: Jun. 17, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
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LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – There is shock and concern following the deadly shooting at a church in Alabama on Thursday night. The 71-year-old suspect armed with a handgun killed three people - all of them senior citizens.

“It is the same domination. The director there is a friend of a friend,” said Rev. Charlotte LaForest, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

LaForest reacted Friday to the deadly shooting at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Alabama.

Police said a 71-year-old man shot and killed three senior citizens at a potluck dinner. The shooter had attended the church and was at the dinner when he pulled out a handgun and started firing.

LaForest told Western Mass News that they just had a big community celebration at her church in Longmeadow this past Sunday. She was already having talks about safety in the wake of recent mass shootings.

“We had to had conversations leading up to it about being mindful about what would happen if someone came with a gun,” LaForest added.

Someone at St. Stephen’s was able to hold down the suspect until law enforcement arrived. Now, church leaders we spoke with said they have to think about what to do when inside the sanctuary, like knowing where the exits are and what to do in the moment.

“I’ve had conversations this week with area clergy about training ministers to be able to react to an active shooter coming into a sanctuary,” LaForest noted.

Meanwhile, we found other faiths are also standing with St. Stephen’s in Alabama.

“Anytime that there is a tragedy like this, particularly in a faith community, it’s especially tragic because people should be able to feel safe in their house of worship, whatever it may be,” said Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts CEO Nora Gorenstein.

We checked in with area police departments about any plans for extra security after what happened in Alabama. Springfield Police told us places of worship always receive special attention.