TYLER, TX (KLTV) - This month marks the 30th anniversary of an East Texas tragedy. Five people were shot dead in a Daingerfield church. As this violent crime and others, like the East Texas church fires, are remembered, congregations learned how to protect themselves at the Church Safety Seminar in Tyler.
Larry Linam remembers the tragic day his daughter was killed. It was June, 1980. "I just went to my knees and said, 'Oh, no. Not this.'" Gina Linam was just seven years old when a man opened fire at the Daingerfield Baptist church. His gunfire killed five and injured ten.
"When I walked into that church, there were three very ominous things. One, darkness, silence, a deathly silence, and a third thing... The smell of death," said Linam.
Violent crimes against churches have made headlines for decades. "Seven people have been violently killed on church property this year, 300 in the last ten years, and it just keeps growing," said Jimmy Meeks, a minister and police officer in Hurst.
A recent example of this crime is the fires that tore through ten East Texas churches. These acts have prompted churches to attend the Church Safety Seminar in Tyler.
"This seminar is based on a lot of things, a lot of safety issues, whether it be child safety, predators, fires," said Marilyn Wilson, the Assistant Smith County Fire Marshal.
Meeks organizes the safety seminars and says it's time for a wake-up call. "Churches like Tyler and in this area are just sound asleep and rather ignorant about how to protect your people....It is a misconception of faith and common sense."
Speakers and vendors suggested how churches should arm themselves. Wilson said, "In working the church fires in East Texas, we found that there were a lot of things that we as investigators need to be aware of. Contact the fire marshal's office, either county or city, and have them come out and do a pre-fire plan for you."
It was testimonies like Linam's that struck a nerve in the crowd. "Had we had someone outside the church watching King unloading two riffles, two handguns, jackets, armor helmets and nearly 300 rounds of ammunition, I think we would have known something bad was going to happen," said Linam.
If you want to learn more about the Daingerfield church shooting, Linam has written a book titled The Day the Angels Cried.