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‘Shift in paradigm’: Utah self-defense trainer says shooting at Texas church shows preparation can save lives

Posted at 9:42 PM, Dec 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-30 23:42:20-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A shooting that took place in a Texas church on Sunday showed a longtime law enforcement and security expert in Utah that a "shift in paradigm" is here.

"We saw armed men and women jumping out of their seats and moving towards the shooter," said Dave Acosta, an international security expert and the founder of Fight Back Nation. "It could have been worse, and it wasn't because that congregation was prepared."

Two people died in the shooting after a man pulled out a shotgun inside of a West Settlement, Texas congregation and started firing. A member of a volunteer security detail shot and killed the man. In a video that surfaced on social media sites, numerous churchgoers pulled out firearms within a split-second of the man firing his first shot.

"This to me, this is a shift in paradigm that I've been waiting for, for years," said Acosta, who teaches security and training courses across the world. "Fight back — take the fight right back to them. Let's stop allowing them to be productive in these mass shootings."

However, Acosta believes that you don't necessarily need a firearm to be prepared.

"I tell people this all the time: you are your own first responder until the police arrive," he said. "So for at least three minutes, what's your plan?"

Acosta has held training sessions with teachers, churchgoers and others who don't prefer a firearm.

While a significant number of churchgoers in Texas pulled out firearms in response to the situation on Sunday, FOX 13 learned that two churches in Utah have notified Utah's Bureau of Criminal Identification that they prohibit firearms in their houses of worship.

"The state of Utah does allow for churches and houses of worship to regulate firearms being brought in to their facilities," said Utah Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety Sgt. Nick Street. "We do have two recent houses of worship that have submitted applications to the Bureau of Criminal Identification prohibiting firearms from being brought in to their premises."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent out security guidelines for church meetings and events outlining protocol changes at buildings and activities.

In the event of an active shooter situation, the church says to do "one of the following, based on the circumstances:"

  • Run. Flee immediately if a safe path is available. Move quickly to the safest exit and away from the building to a safe location. Exit quietly, without drawing the attention of the assailant. Adults are to ensure all children are supervised and accounted for. Do not return to the building or to an office or classroom for personal items. Do not carry anything that could be mistaken for a weapon by responding law enforcement.
  • Hide. If you are unable to escape safely, hide out of sight of the assailant’s view. If possible, close, lock, and barricade the doors to the classrooms, offices, or other rooms where you are hiding. Turn out the lights, silence mobile phones, and keep low to the floor and away from windows. If there is an exchange of gunfire between law enforcement and the assailant, everyone in the building is to stay in their barricaded rooms until instructed otherwise by law enforcement.
  • Fight. As a last resort, if there is no time to run or hide, fight back against the assailant. Use anything available as a weapon, and fight to stop the assailant. If others are present, organize to defend yourselves.

(The full guidelines can be read here)

"What does it mean to run? What does it mean to hide? In our focus ... we think that most people can figure out how to run and hide but our focus has been — worst-case scenario — you're not going to get away; how do you fight back? What if you're unarmed?" Acosta said regarding the 'run, hide, fight' suggestion.

FOX 13 reached out to the LDS Church with a phone call and an email to inquire if any training had been done for members to learn the security guidelines but did not receive a response.

Acosta has an extensive law enforcement background and recently wrote a book called "Victims No More! Fight Back Against an Active Shooter." He says the book was inspired by those who fought with terrorists that took over Flight 93 in September 2001. All of those on-board were unarmed.

"I think across the nation if we just make it unproductive to be a mass shooter — whether we're armed or not, we're going to attack you and defeat you... we can change things," Acosta said.

Learn more about Fight Back Nation, visit the group's website.