This past week saw the annual men’s conference, the Men’s Summit, at Gateway Church in Southlake. It was attended by over 4,000 men from Gateway and other local churches.
The Men’s Brigade is an organization within Gateway that works with single mothers, widows and the elderly. This year, the Brigade was asked if they would build a “shoot house,” for the Men’s Summit after one of the members saw Gateway Pastor Marsia Van Wormer’s Instagram showcasing her Citizen’s Academy experience with Southlake, in which she herself had to make split decisions to “shoot or not shoot.”
After the Brigade pitched the idea to Van Wormer, she then went to Southlake Police Chief Brandon to ask if SWAT could assist with the training and safety aspects of the project. “Whatever you need, we’ll do it,” Chief Brandon told her.
“Anytime we need Southlake Police’s assistance, the response from them is always ‘whatever you need,’ or ‘how can we help?’” Van Wormer said.
With a Gateway member donating all of the supplies totaling over $12,000, Lieutenant Luna and Detective Ellis of the SWAT team drew up specs to make a life-size faux house, complete with walls and hallways. About 30 members of the Brigade worked nonstop for about 12 hours until the structure was completed and ready for participation.
On Thursday, April 19th, in the midst of the Men’s Summit, the project was ready for contestants.
The premise of a shoot house is simple: shoot or don’t shoot when presented with different scenarios. Patrons armored up with a mask and chest protector and then armed themselves with a paintball gun. To replicate the feeling of an amped up situation, they first did a few calisthenics outside to get their heart pumping and their adrenaline running. They then entered and were guided by Southlake SWAT officers and shown how to enter and clear a room. Targets were set up either showing a person with or without a gun, and the objective was to neutralize the threat. Teams of five entered each time and over the week, over 14,000 paintballs were fired.
After the Summit ends, the Brigade will break down the house and plans to rebuild it in the basement of Police Headquarters as a gift to the Southlake Police. “We have so much respect and appreciation for the Southlake PD that we wanted to give them a small token of how much we love them,” Van Wormer said.
The new shoot house will be housed downstairs and used for training new recruits, use of force updates, and general practice for officers for years to come.