UPDATED with statement from ALL PEOPLE’S CHURCH:
All Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist sent a statement to Dallas Voice regarding the arrest at the church on Wednesday, Aug. 23. The statement stressed that the incident was not an attack on the church because of its progressive values and that police are not investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Roman Collins, the armed man who entered All People’s Church on Wednesday and made threatening statements on Wednesday, Aug. 23, has been attending All People’s Church for the past few months, according to the church’s press release.
Board President Dan Sexton said, “We believe this was not an attack on the church’s progressive values, but the actions of a lone disturbed individual. The Fort Worth Police Department does not consider this a hate crime.”
According to the press release, the incident began Wednesday morning when a dog was found, shot and cut open, in a field behind the church next to the church’s community garden. There was an assault rifle found lying next to the dog. A teacher at a private school, which operates out of the facility, discovered the scene and called Fort Worth police.
Police responded quickly and found nine shell casings at the scene. One of the security cams recorded shots being fired around 3:44 a.m. The police filed the incident as an animal cruelty case.
Around 4:15 p.m., right after the school closed and the church administrator was alone in the building, he heard a person walk in the back door and slip into the library. He went to see who had arrived, assuming it was someone early for Wednesday evening choir practice, the press release said. “That’s when he saw Collins standing just inside the doorway to the library,” the statement noted. “Collins was wearing a tactical vest, stuffed with ammunition, a holstered gun and a rifle lay beside him on the table. The administrator spoke calmly to Collins, who admitted he had killed the dog and that he planned further carnage.
“The administrator told Collins he had to put something in the office, then left the church through a side door and drove to a nearby church member’s house and dialed 911.”
Police “responded quickly,” according to the statement and a found him waiting by the front door with a gun.” Collins then allegedly told police he was waiting for people to arrive.
“Within minutes of the first 911 call, dozens of law enforcement officers descended on the scene from various departments, including Homeland Security,” the press release notes, adding that the dog was identified as Collins’ own dog.
UPDATED with statement from LGBTQ SAVES:
A heavily-armed 26-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, Aug. 23, inside Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1959 Sandy Lane, also known as All Peoples Unitarian Universalist, after reportedly killing a dog there earlier in the day, according to a statement issued Thursday, Aug. 24, by Fort Worth police.
According to the statement, officers were first called to the church around 11 a.m. Wednesday, and when they arrived, the caller led to the body of the dog. Officers then found a rifle and numerous shell casings nearby.
Then later that day, at around 4:30 p.m., police returned to the church after a witness called 911 to say there was a man in the church with firearms threatening to kill people. When officers arrived, they found Roman Collins inside. According to the statement issued by police, Collins was “standing near a firearm,” and officers “immediately detained him.”
According to social media posts, a church member found Collins and was able to calm him down and then call police. That person told police Collins “had made threatening statements about killing people.”
The FWPD statement said upon entering the church, officers found Collins “standing near a firearm and immediately detained him.” When they searched him, “they found several weapons including a shotgun, a large fixed blade style knife, a handgun, several loaded magazines, medical equipment and a water canteen.”
When officers searched Collins’ truck, they found a rifle that had been converted to convert handgun magazines, and after officers interviewed him, “Our Homeland Security Unit took the lead on this investigation. Out of precaution, HSU requested the Fort Worth Fire Department Arson/Bomb Unit to conduct a security sweep of the church, courtyard and the suspect’s vehicle for explosive devices.”
Officers also searched Collins’ home, “with the assistance of the FBI and ATF,” but reports did not indicate what, if anything, they found there.
Collins was arrested and booked into the Tarrant County Jail on charges of terroristic threat, cruelty to a non-livestock animal and possession of a weapon in a prohibited place.
All Peoples Unitarian Universalist has long been a very prominent progressive presence in its East Fort Worth neighbor and a very visible supporter of the LGBTQ community, often with several rainbow flags flying out front. The banner displayed over the church’s front entrance declares: “We believe Love is Love, Black Lives Matter, Climate Change is Real, No Human Being is Illegal, All Genders are Whole, Holy and Good, Women Have Agency Over their Bodies.”
The church also previously provided meeting space for Fort Worth’s PFLAG chapter and continues to do so for meetings of the LGBTQ SAVES youth group.
According to its website, the church is dedicated to social justice issues and is “a congregation of individuals who are interested in making the world a better place.
“Our first principle upholds the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Our members are involved in a number of organizations, movements, and activities to further those goals.”
— Tammye Nash