After the rampage at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue that left 11 dead and six wounded, a 40-year-old artist named Tim Hindes posted to social media a rendering of the Pittsburgh Steelers logo with the yellow four-pointed star on the helmet replaced by the Star of David—accompanied by the phrase "Stronger than Hate." Image courtesy of Tim Hindes / Facebook.

After the rampage at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue that left 11 dead and six wounded, a 40-year-old artist named Tim Hindes posted to social media a rendering of the Pittsburgh Steelers logo with the yellow four-pointed star on the helmet replaced by the Star of David—accompanied by the phrase "Stronger than Hate." Image courtesy of Tim Hindes / Facebook.

Last week, a hate-filled man—whose name merits no mention in this space—reportedly entered the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and opened fire on the worshipers inside.

Eleven lives were lost that morning. Two other worshipers were injured and four police officers were wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the attacker.

Two of the injured officers have been released from the hospital, while two remain under medical care—one is listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit and the other is listed in stable condition.

Those murdered were 75-year-old Joyce Feinberg, 65-year-old Richard Gottfried, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, 66-year-old Jerry Rabinowitz, 59-year-old Cecil Rosenthal, 54-year-old David Rosenthal, 84-year-old Bernice Simon, 86-year-old Sylvan Simon, 71-year-old Daniel Stein, 88-year-old Melvin Wax, and 69-year-old Irving Younger.

This column is written in honor of those precious lives lost, and in support of the myriad survivors affected by this awful tragedy.

Shalom.

Stronger Than Hate

The gunman—who was also struck by gunfire in a gunfight with responding police officers—survived, and now faces 44 federal charges, 32 of which are punishable by death.

Authorities quickly—and quite correctly—labeled the attack as a hate crime.

The alleged gunman had reportedly made anti-Semitic statements on a social media website that has become a haven for white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other extremists, according to the New York Times.

In his most recent post to the website—Gab—the gunman reportedly said, "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

It's not entirely clear who "my people" might be in that statement, but it is clear that the man who stands accused of committing this atrocity was fueled by hate.

However, he is overwhelmingly outnumbered by people who are filled with love and kindness and compassion.

The reaction from people in Pittsburgh—and frankly, across the country—was to adopt the motto, "Stronger than Hate."

After the rampage, a 40-year-old artist named Tim Hindes posted to social media a rendering of the Pittsburgh Steelers logo with the yellow four-pointed star replaced by the Star of David—accompanied by that very phrase.

Hindes offered free use of the symbol on his Facebook page, and the image quickly went globally viral.

"I see every posting of this image as a WIN for love and a strike against hate," Hindes told the Post-Gazette.

The Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team added a shoulder patch to their uniforms with the team's logo also bearing the words, "Stronger than Hate."

Millions of people on social media have posted their own personal messages of sorrow and sympathy.

After a tragedy, the American people—the vast majority of whom feel that hate for a person's heritage, religion, race, sexual preference, political affiliation, or any other ridiculous reason is preposterous—come together and demonstrate sincere love.

It's somewhat disappointing that it takes an act of evil for the pure good in people to come bubbling visibly to the surface, but when the deep-down-good does show itself, we are reminded that it's been there all along—it's just been hiding beneath the waterline.

Enticing Targets

Places of worship are particularly vulnerable to such attacks because they are not only emblematic of a hate-filled person's unhinged grievances, but they are target-rich environments—with people packed tightly together in a space with an almost unlimited field of fire.

That's simply the harsh reality.

Another harsh reality is that Saturday's shooting was not the first, nor—sadly—will it be the last attack on a house of worship.

Recall that in 2017, nine parishioners were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2014, three people were killed at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom in Overland Park, Kansas.

In 2012, a gunman killed six and wounded four others at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

All three incidents were labeled as hate crimes.

Sadly, the list goes on.

Jeanne...on the Spot

Today, I want to focus attention on an attack that was cut short by the bravery and skilled marksmanship of a former police officer working as an armed security guard at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2007.

Two innocents died that December Sunday nearly eleven years ago, but if not for the quick response of Jeanne Assam, the number of dead churchgoers could easily have been much, much higher.

Shortly before one o'clock in the afternoon, the first of at least two smoke grenades went off outside the building. Soon after the second one went off, Jeanne Assam heard a muffled ‘pop, pop, pop’ coming from the East Hallway, which runs the entire length of the massive structure.

As the gunman tried to enter the building through the doors at the end of the hallway, he was opening fire through the glass at people inside. People quickly fled the open space, seeking cover in rooms out of the line of fire. But Assam remained in the hallway, bounding from one point of cover to another, closing distance, getting ready for battle.

Assam once told me, "I engaged him, and I took him down."

Professional… Proficient... Perfect.

Assam—trained to police-level standards of proficiency with her sidearm and possessing a solid understanding of tactics that would help keep her (and the rest of the churchgoers) safe—did what arriving officers would have done had they gotten there before her rapid response.

As the saying goes, when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.

Given the fact that there remain an unknown number of disturbed individuals like the man who reportedly killed those people in Pittsburgh on Saturday, it seems to me to be reasonable to find a way to place highly trained and willing volunteers in a position to end a potential attack at a synagogue, a church, or any other religious gathering place.

Hardening Targets

I've previously written about my belief that we need to do a better job of hardening "soft targets" and I don't mean just putting an unarmed guard in some ridiculous uniform on the premises.

An unarmed guard is not "security"—that person is most probably an attacker's first victim.

However, by positioning well-trained, covert, armed security at these kinds of locations, we accomplish two things: we have an immediate-response capability to end an attack—if for no other reason than the fact that a gunman engaging the "good guy with the gun" is necessarily not shooting at innocents.

Further, following an incident such as Assam's in Colorado, would-be attackers might have second thoughts about striking at a location they think might have an armed response ready and waiting.

As it says in Proverbs 24:11, "Rescue those who are being taken away to death, and hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter."

As it says in Proverbs 3:27, "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act."

Amen.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Web Editor

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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