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'A threat walked into our church': Warner Robins church bans 'suspicious visitor'

Last week, someone called the Houston County Sheriff's Office about a suspicious visitor at Fellowship Bible Baptist Church. The call led to an investigation.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Some recent mass shootings in churches, schools, supermarkets, and more have lots of people on edge.

Just this week, we told you about a Macon training conference aimed at keeping houses of worship safe.

Now, a Warner Robins pastor says he was alarmed by a suspicious visitor on their campus.

Last week, someone called the Houston County Sheriff's Office about a suspicious visitor at Fellowship Bible Baptist Church. After the phone call, the sheriff's office opened an investigation.

On Dunbar Road in Warner Robins lies Fellowship Bible Baptist Church.

According to a Houston County incident report, last Wednesday night, an 18-year-old white man visited during their church service. The congregation is predominantly Black and members had never seen this man before.

"Just sometimes you get that feeling that something is just not right," Wyche said.

According to the Head of Church Security Ezra Wyche, the man acted strangely, so they took a picture of his car and checked his Facebook page.

"Because of the Facebook message, we had information we could look at and that's what brought us to the point where we were," Wyche said.

His online profile showed photographs of a rifle and a caption, "I'm no criminal, but if I'm gunna commit a crime, I'm only targeting gun-free zones."

Three Houston County officers and an officer from ATF, the federal agency, visited his home in Kathleen. They spoke with the man and his mom, who allowed them to search the house.

"This has got to be a partnership. I think we are learning that throughout the country," Lieutenant Ron Brainard with the sheriff's office said.

"The young man described his politics as extreme, but said he wouldn't hurt anybody. The report says he did not explain why he visited the church.

Brainard calls it an example of the community working well with law enforcement.

"If you're in a public event or area and you see something that's just in your mind that tells you, 'That doesn't look right,' please, in today's world, make that call and call 911 so that the proper authorities can get out there and make a determination of whether there is a threat or not," Brainard said.

"We hope this wouldn't happen in our community, but as we know, we just don't know what we are going to be faced with," Wyche said.

Pastor Tolan Morgan spoke with 13WMAZ off-camera.

“A threat walked into our church. He knows where we worshiped. He sat through the entire service. He knows my face and he is still out there. I need to protect my family… We came that close to dying. That guy could’ve walked in and went to spraying. He posted on his Facebook page that he’s a new proud owner of an AR-15. He could’ve walked in Wednesday and went to killing. The fact that he didn’t, one, was by the grace of God and, two, we have to view as he could come back. We came that close to danger coming to walk in our church. It’s one of those situations where you have a reality check. Life comes and knocks on your door. You can’t look at what happens across the country and say, ‘That’s not coming to my door.' That’s foolish," Morgan said.

He also said he is thankful for their security team.

"Our security team is made up of former military, active military, and active law enforcement and former law enforcement. Based upon their training, they were able to identify a suspicious presence and, thankfully, they were correct," Morgan said. "We need to intensify the relationship with law enforcement and the community at large. Two, we need to prepare every place of mass gathering for such situations. Three, particularly with churches, we need to treat churches as if they’re targets so that people can have safe places of worship.”

Officers did not arrest the man but gave him a criminal trespass warning. That means he can't attend any services or functions at the church.

According to the incident report, the man's mother said she didn't want the rifle in her home and ordered him to take it back to the store.

The Houston County Sheriff's office also forwarded the investigation to the ATF and the FBI.

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