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What to do when faced with an active shooter

The Rev. Anthony Rossi, Detective Joseph Rovnan, the Rev. John Large.

Detective Joseph Rovnan, of the police department’s counter-terrorism operations, on Monday night spoke at St. Anselm Church about how members of a congregation can defend themselves if an active shooter disrupts a Mass with violence.

More than 100 people listened to the presentation.

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Among those in attendance were the Revs. Anthony Rossi and John Babowitch, pastors at St. Anselm and Our Lady of Calvary, respectively, and the Rev. John Large, of St. Anselm.

The event started with a prayer for victims of active shooters.

A 33-year member of the police department, Rovnan suggested one way to protect a congregation is to close all but one door once a service starts.

Church-goers, he said, should know all available exits.

In case of an attack, Rovnan said congregants can either run, hide or fight, depending on the circumstances. If hiding or playing dead, it’s imperative to stay motionless and quiet, even when calling 911.

In certain circumstances, it might be best to reason with the shooter.

“It’s a difficult call,” Rovnan said.

Rovnan showed a video of the 2019 shooting at a Texas church that left two people dead before the gunman was fatally shot by a volunteer security team member.

The detective said churches should at least consider armed security.

“We’re in a different world, people,” he said.

Rovnan explained that mass shootings can happen anywhere. He recalled the 2010 incident at the former Kraft building on Roosevelt Boulevard. In that case, a suspended worker entered the building and shot three co-workers, two of them fatally.

“This is right up the street,” he said.

While society generally discourages violence, Rovnan said when congregants are out of options in the face of an active shooter, they need to fight for their lives.

“The Lord has given us no other decisions,” he said. ••

To schedule a training session with Detective Joseph Rovnan, call 215-685-1170 or email Joseph.Rovnan@phila.gov.

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