A potential tragedy was prevented in Texas this week when a man carrying a gun was talked down from an attack on a church congregation by the pastor. Rev. John D. Johnson III is a former parole officer trained in verbal de-escalation, crisis prevention and dealing with mentally ill criminals.
Rasheed Abdul Aziz, 40, entered the Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Bullard Texas hours after the regular Sunday morning service and asked to see the pastor. Church members had stayed behind to plan an upcoming festival. The pastor’s 17 year-old son was in the conference room with him.
As Aziz was shown into the conference room, “Every hair on my neck just stood up,” said Rev. Johnson, 45. “It was almost like you could just like feel the presence of just negative energy.”
Aziz was dressed in camouflage fatigue pants and boots, a black T-shirt and a tactical vest. He was sweating heavily.
As Johnson extended his hand, Aziz began yelling about being a “man of Islam” and how his god said he was authorized to take the lives of infidels. He specifically mentioned killing Jews and Christians because their doctrine was contradictory to Islam.
Johnson noticed the outline of a gun in Aziz’s pocket. “Immediately, just like clockwork,” Johnson said his training “kicked in.” Johnson currently works fulltime as a student services intervention specialist in the Tyler Independent School District.
After asking Aziz to calm down, he offered to get him a cold drink and pray for him. Johnson positioned himself in between Aziz and the door.
He asked Aziz to sit down, which he did. Johnson then patted Aziz’s shoulder while at the same time leaning over to get a glimpse of what kind of weapon Aziz was carrying.
“I never gave him the power of feeling that he was in control, that I was frightened,” Johnson said. “I just continued to engage, but I was very cautious not to raise my voice or make any quick moves.”
Aziz was becoming more and more angry. Johnson appeased him by saying he would take care of him but told him that he first needed to attend to his children. At that point, Johnson left the conference room and whispered to his wife and another member there, “We got a problem. Get everybody out of the church.” Someone called 911.
Johnson, his family and the rest of the congregation then sped away.
Shortly after, Aziz also fled. He was arrested later that evening, sporting the same clothes and with the gun in his pocket and was initially charged with the illegal possession of a firearm, a felony crime.
Before he was arrested, however, Aziz returned to the church and left the following note: “My name is Rasheed You helped me at a time of need This house is blessed by God & all faiths Muslim Jews & the Christian shall all gather here in Peace & Justice for God as a while For the betterment of mankind as a whole I thank you. My title is special Ranger harbinger Aziz I be around to … [sic]”
The note was found by a church deacon the next day.
Johnson said if he could share one thing with other pastors, it would be, “Please put security measures” in place. Do not get caught thinking that this only happens in other places, in big places.”