Thursday, September 20, 2018
Public safety

Tampa church warns: We are armed and ready to use deadly force

If you are an evildoer wishing to bring harm to the members of River at Tampa Bay Church, don’t expect congregants to turn the other cheek.

They’ll blast you.

So says a sign at the church, at 3738 River International Drive in Tampa, that delivers a stark warning to anyone thinking of wreaking havoc.

"PLEASE KNOW THIS IS NOT A GUN FREE ZONE," it reads. "WE ARE HEAVILY ARMED — ANY ATTEMPT WILL BE DEALT WITH DEADLY FORCE — YES WE ARE A CHURCH AND WE WILL PROTECT OUR PEOPLE."

The message is signed "THE PASTORS."

The sign at the 21-year-old church was put up about a year ago, said Associate Pastor Allen Hawes.

But it made a recent splash on social media when Senior Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne posted it on his Instagram account in the wake of the deadly church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that killed 26 and wounded another 20.

"It is a deterrent," said Hawes, 37, who has been at the church for the past 15 years. "Look at what is going on. In the past two months, look at what happened in Texas. Look at what happened in Las Vegas. Because we are a church that is on television, we are very involved in the community. We want people to know that this is a safe zone."

Hawes, who has a concealed weapons permit and favors the Springfield Armory 1911 handgun, a favorite among gun enthusiasts, said the congregation has many armed members who are prepared to use deadly force if necessary. Average attendance each Sunday is about 1,200 to 1,300.

"If you walk through the door with the intention to harm, that sign serves as a deterrent to you," said Hawes. "We are not a soft target. People here will defend their families."

Leaders and members of the non-denominational church, which has hosted concealed weapons permit classes, are also paying close attention to the string of four unsolved homicides in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood, said Hawes.

"I think just collectively, we pay very close attention," he said. "Look at Seminole Heights. Someone is murdering people. This stuff is happening all the time. Do you wait for another shooting to take precautions?"

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

Comments
Orlando-Melbourne airport lockdown lifted after breach of security

Orlando-Melbourne airport lockdown lifted after breach of security

MELBOURNE — Police in Florida have re-opened the Orlando-Melbourne International Airport following a breach of security that resulted in some flight delays.Airport spokeswoman Lori Booker tells news outlets a student pilot boarded a passenger ...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Girl, 15, stabbed in back during fight with student on school bus in St. Petersburg

Girl, 15, stabbed in back during fight with student on school bus in St. Petersburg

A 15-year-old girl was stabbed in the back Thursday morning during a fight with another student on a school bus.Police say the girl was stabbed while the bus, which was en route to Gibbs High School, was stopped near the intersection of Paris Avenue ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Boston incident sparks concern over testing gas pipes in St. Pete

Boston incident sparks concern over testing gas pipes in St. Pete

By SUHAUNA HUSSAINTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — One day after a string of fiery natural-gas explosions rocked three Massachusetts towns,St. Petersburg sent out a notice to residents warning them that Florida Gas Transmission will be testing its...
Published: 09/20/18
Busted, baby: Rapper Plies arrested at Tampa International Airport

Busted, baby: Rapper Plies arrested at Tampa International Airport

TAMPA — The rapper Plies, aka Algernod Lanier Washington, was arrested at Tampa International Airport on Wednesday after authorities say a gun was found in his carry-on bag.The 42-year-old Wesley Chapel resident faces a charge of carrying a concealed...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office launches Facebook, Twitter accounts in Spanish

Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office launches Facebook, Twitter accounts in Spanish

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office now has Facebook and Twitter accounts in Spanish.The agency celebrated the official launch of the accounts on Wednesday. Sheriff Chad Chronister said the goal is to connect with an increasing number of...
Published: 09/19/18
Ninety animals seized Tuesday in Hernando County cruelty case

Ninety animals seized Tuesday in Hernando County cruelty case

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando sheriff’s deputies seized 90 animals on Tuesday and arrested a woman on animal cruelty and animal mistreatment charges after people called with concerns about an ill horse.Crystal Robin Crawford, 46, was arrested but not taken ...
Published: 09/19/18
Cops question viral video about human trafficking at Pinellas Publix

Cops question viral video about human trafficking at Pinellas Publix

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is setting the record straight about a viral Facebook video posted by a Dunedin woman who claimed she almost fell victim to human trafficking. Lynne Knowles took to Facebook to share what happened to her at the Pu...
Published: 09/19/18
Pasco man taken down by K9 after attempting to kidnap infant girl, putting schools on lockdown

Pasco man taken down by K9 after attempting to kidnap infant girl, putting schools on lockdown

NEW PORT RICHEY — A few hours before he was lying on his back in the woods, shirtless with a dog’s jaws clamped around his arm, Kevin Wilson climbed into a second-story window and tried to kidnap a 6-month-old baby girl, according to the ...
Published: 09/19/18
Fate of FEMA leader Brock Long in doubt as Florence cleanup continues

Fate of FEMA leader Brock Long in doubt as Florence cleanup continues

WASHINGTON — While Hurricane Florence barreled through the Carolinas, a different type of storm was brewing within the federal disaster relief agency tasked with responding to the fallout.The fate of Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergen...
Published: 09/19/18
Largo names new fire chief

Largo names new fire chief

LARGO — After two nationwide searches that produced 119 applicants, City Manager Henry Schubert didn’t have to look far to find his new fire chief.Schubert announced recently that Chad Pittman, deputy chief of Palm Harbor Fire Rescue, w...
Published: 09/19/18