Delco church leaders look to arm parishioners for security purposes

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Upper Darby church elders consider arming parishioners: Dann Cuellar reports on Action News at 11 p.m., February 21, 2018 (WPVI)

Upper Darby police were searching for a man they say threatened to kill the entire congregation of his church.

Accompanied by family members, Sherwood Hargrove, 59, of Drexel Hill, turned himself in Wednesday morning.

But hours later, Hargrove was back on the streets much to the chagrin of the police.

"The fact that he was allowed to sign his own bail is beyond belief to me," said Upper Darby Police Supt. Michael Chitwood.

Police said Hargrove was escorted out of Sunday morning services at Beulah Tabernacle Church after he began harassing parishioners.

"He said to the people that were escorting him out of the church that he was going to come back and kill everybody," said Chitwood. "That's a threat. I mean that's as terroristic a threat as you can get."

With his photo posted all over the news, Hargrove finally turned himself in Wednesday morning. But he was soon ordered released by Judge Ann Beradaco on $30,000 unsecured bond.

"That is absolutely insane. It's asinine," said Chitwood. "The guy can be a danger, when you make those kinds of threats, there has to be consequences."

In the wake of these developments, Church officials at Beulah Tabernacle declined to comment for this report.

But the incident has only heightened concerns for other parishes like the Fresh Anointing Christian Center in Upper Darby.

"Unfortunately, Pastors have to begin to think about church security and protect the congregation," said Rev. Dr. Clarence Walker.

Ever since the shooting of 9 members of a church in South Carolina in 2015, church elders have been looking at ways of securing their facility.

They have kicked around the idea with police of having people conceal carrying weapons on the grounds.

"I wouldn't particularly carry a gun myself, but I believe in having people who are well-trained, qualified and designated to take care of those problems as they occur," said Walker. "Truth be told we have some people like that now, they're carrying but people don't know they're carrying."

The elders of the church are still reviewing the idea and others like it.

"I don't blame them," said Chitwood. " I met with the elders of the church and that was one of my recommendations."

In light of the recent developments, the elders expect to make a decision on the matter within a month.

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