Church Violence

SafeChurch by GuideOne Center for Risk Management


March 2, 2018

On Sunday, July 27, 2008, a gunman walked into a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, during the performance of a children’s musical. He proceeded to shoot eight people, killing two, before he was overpowered by congregation members and subdued until police arrived. The gunman reportedly admitted to police that he committed the crimes because of his disagreement with the church’s stand on issues, although he himself did not attend the church. He later pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Shocking as it may seem, violent incidents of this nature happen several times each year at churches across the country. Because places of worship are open to the public, churches have become more vulnerable to these senseless acts of violence. This fact sheet addresses what churches can do to prepare for, and respond to, violent acts.