It is easy to see how someone can be led to believe that the church is a sanctuary. Many of us have fresh memories of watching Elvira Arellano flaunt her illegal status as she took refuge in a storefront church and dared law enforcement to enter the church to arrest her. For over one year’s time as she remained defiant, law enforcement didn’t do anything as she made headline news challenging them to “come get her.”
Perhaps that might have been in the back of Mark Anthony Barmore’s mind when the 23-year-old ran into the basement of the House of Grace Daycare and Preschool located in the basement of a church in Rockford. Reports say he had been walking and talking with the pastor’s wife when he was spotted by two Rockford police officers. Barmore was wanted by the police for a domestic dispute that involved use of a knife.
When he was spotted by the two officers, he took off and ran into the church building. Once inside, he hid out in a basement utility room. That room was quickly surrounded by two police officers who ordered him to come out. But from the moment he came out of the utility room, the story of the witnesses to the shooting and the police officer’s versions are polar opposite.
This is what is not in dispute. Barmore ended up dead. Shot by the police officers who chased him. Three of the shots that killed him were to his back. A fourth bullet grazed his neck. The witnesses to the shooting are the workers and children who were in the daycare at the time of the shooting. Because Barmore was not alleged to be “armed and dangerous,” many in the Rockford area have been marching and protesting the shooting. The decision of those officers to use deadly force is not being accepted without question.
And if the church isn’t a sanctuary, neither is being an ordained pastor. In Georgia a local pastor Jonathan Ayers, 28, pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church was seen in a car with a woman who was being investigated as a drug suspect. The pastor dropped the woman off at a local gas station and went inside the convenience store. The pastor was wearing a red shirt with a cross emblazoned on the front. As he returned to his car, a Cadillac Escalade pulled up and four undercover officers in plain clothes jumped out, guns drawn and approached his car. The surveillance videotape from the gas station showed the pastor backing up, almost striking one officer, and then pulling forward to get away. The police began shooting and hit the pastor in the stomach. He subsequently died from his wounds.
Both of these police shootings situations should outrage the public. In neither case was the suspect in danger of doing any immediate harm to anyone. In the Barmore case, the police were familiar with his case. Being wanted on a domestic dispute didn’t warrant the outcome. In the Ayers case, a real pastor is often seen with those whose lifestyles are less than perfect as they minister to them. So it is not shocking to see the minister attempt to get away when an unmarked SUV, filled with men with guns drawn, pulls up and descends upon his vehicle.
These police shootings, one involving a black victim and the other a white victim, are not the vision of equal opportunity that this country should condone.