A cool-headed, quick-thinking pastor in Texas narrowly averted a tragedy when a man bent on jihad entered his church and declared he was going to kill Christians and Jews.
The man, identified as Rasheed Abdul Aziz, went into the church Sunday dressed for war in camouflage pants, tactical gear, carrying a gun and declaring he was on a mission from Allah, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported.
The man first approached a deacon outside Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Bullard, Texas, and asked to speak to the pastor, saying he wanted to engage in prayer.
Even though the morning services were done, the church still had many people — including children — inside, as Aziz entered and confronted Pastor John Johnson III.
“Every hair on my neck just stood up,” Rev. Johnson, 45, told the Telegraph on Monday. “It was almost like you could just like feel the presence of just negative energy.”
He told Johnson he was “a man of Islam” who had demons chasing him and telling him to “slay the infidels.”
Instead of panicking, Johnson, who also works as a student services intervention specialist for troubled youth and is a former parole officer, asked the man to sit down and offered to pray for him.
According to the Telegraph, Johnson is trained in verbal de-escalation, crisis prevention and has experience dealing with mentally ill offenders. Skills he used to save the lives of his parishioners.
“Immediately, just like clockwork, it kicked in,” he said of his training.
“I never gave him the power of feeling that he was in control, that I was frightened,” he told the Telegraph. “I just continued to engage, but I was very cautious not to raise my voice or make any quick moves.”
He said his priority was to take care of the congregation and get them to safety, so he told Aziz he had to take care of the children outside as an excuse to get into the hall.
“Immediately my mind went to the fact that I knew we had several children and young members that were playing and running in the fellowship hall. I mouthed to them, ‘This man has a weapon, I need you guys to go,’ he told KLTV.
Aziz was arrested later that day at a subdivision, still armed, but that was not the end of his interaction with the Church.
The day after Aziz’s arrest, Rev. Johnson returned to the Church to find a note from the would be attacker that read “My name is Rasheed Abdul Aziz. You helped me at a time of need. This house is blessed by God & all faiths. Muslim, Jew & the Christian shall all gather here in Peace and Justice for God as a whole for the betterment of mankind as a whole. I thank you.”
In response to the incident, the church has changed visitor protocol and is purchasing security cameras. Johnson also offered a word of warning for other pastors.
“Do not get caught thinking that this only happens in other places, in big places,” he said.
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