It happened towards the end of the sermon during the morning service at Sibley Missionary Baptist Church, according to Jared McIver, a church member and off-duty Minden police officer. What stands out immediately, McIver says, is that the man entered the front door and slowly walked down the aisle to a front row seat.
“That’s very strange in itself, because most of the latecomers sit at the back of the building so as not to disturb the rest of the program,” McIver recounted in a Facebook post early Sunday afternoon. “The pastor was preaching and the service was almost over. The man looked straight ahead, then down, then began to fumble nervously with his hands. No one had ever seen this man and it soon became apparent that the people in the Congregation were nervous.
This behavior alone might have been nothing more than a man “under conviction”. But what happened next prompted McIver to share it as an example of why having a safety plan is so important for every church.
McIver, a member of Sibley MBC for 35 years, said several men who were allowed to hide inside the church began “signalling each other to start positioning ourselves strategically, quietly and methodically so as not to attract attention to man.”
“When the invitation was given, the man went to the main altar and began to pray and raise his hands in the air. Again, no judgment here, as it is common to seeing people worshiping God, praying and raising their hands. After the invitation was given, the man began to pray out loud. The things he was saying were in a very mad and aggravated screaming voice. Growling with his words as if he was angry. The church service was now over and the man is still kneeling. Everyone quickly begins to exit the building nervously and the men of the church are listening and watching what is going on. This man angrily starts saying things like, “We have to kill all these so-called Christians, kill them all and crush them.”
That’s when McIver called the sheriff’s office, who responded within minutes. Deputies slipped into the sanctuary and took the man into custody after seeing and hearing his behavior for themselves.
McIver says the way the man responded to deputies who asked him why he said what he said was just as disturbing as his violent pleas.
“He said, ‘Well, it’s not illegal to pray out loud,'” McIver recalled, noting that the man didn’t seem to care whether it was right or wrong to call at the death of others.
Deputies arrested the 47-year-old on terrorism charges and incarcerated him at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center. Bail has not been set.
Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker says the church did the right thing by calling law enforcement.
“We want to keep our citizens safe,” Parker said. “If anything seems abnormal, you can call us. Let’s react and see if it’s legit.
“There are several different (and if) scenarios that could have happened,” McIver said in his Facebook post. “It has certainly increased our awareness and will lead us to strengthen our security measures for the future.”
McIver, who is also running to become Minden’s next police chief, told KTAL NBC 6 News he was sharing the story to raise awareness.
“I believe all churches need security in place today. Churches can be seen as an easy target for some criminals who want to hurt people and themselves. Just having that security gives peace of mind to the congregation, gives peace of mind to the pastor, and people want to come here and worship peacefully.