Police to Have Extra Security Measures in Place at Black Georgia Church That Was Threatened by Teen

This Nov. 19, 2019 photo shows the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Ga. A white 16-year-old girl is accused of plotting to attack a mostly black church in Gainesville, where police say she planned to kill worshippers because of their race. (Nick Bowman/ Gainesville Times via AP)

Following the arrest of a 16-year-old girl accused of plotting to kill those inside a predominantly black church in Gainesville, police plan to have an extra presence at the church’s Sunday services.

Gainesville police spokeswoman Cpl. Jessica Van told AJC.com that “there will be a police presence” at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church for “extra measures.” She wouldn’t release specific details on those measures to avoid compromising “operational security.”

In a similar focus on security, Bishop Reginald T. Jackson sent an email to hundreds of AME churches advising that they lock their side and back doors this upcoming Sunday. Jackson is presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes the Hall County AME church.

The teenager, who is white, allegedly planned to attack the church during its Wednesday bible study on Nov. 13, AJC.com previously reported. However, Rev. Michelle Rizer-Pool said that no events were scheduled that night.

“Our investigation indicated the church was targeted by the juvenile based on the racial demographic of the church members,” police Chief Jay Parrish said Tuesday in a news release. “The church was immediately notified of the incident by Gainesville police to ensure the safety of our community and the current threat was under control.”

It’s not clear how she planned to carry out the alleged attack, but Parrish said the teen collected knives.

St. Philip AME Church Rev. William Watley told Channel 2 Action News he plans to follow Jackson’s emailed warning to beef up security in addition to his normal security team’s protocols.

“That’s the reality in which we live. We have to be prepared,” he said. “We never have an event where we don’t have security.”

He said his church will have armed security guards, security cameras and locked doors during all events, Channel 2 reported.

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Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution