MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Memphis authorities are applauding the FBI, who arrested a truck driver who agents say threatened to shoot up a Memphis church this Thursday.
FBI leaders said 38-year-old Thomas Matthew McVicker made credible threats to a friend about committing a mass shooting and suicide at a Memphis place of worship.
Memphis Police said McVicker didn’t name or target a specific church, but federal authorities felt the warnings were legitimate enough to take him into custody last week.
For Memphis Police leaders, the FBI’s thwarting of a potential mass shooting plot at a Memphis church this week again illustrated a real and relentless threat.
“We live in a different day and time now, where, you know, if somebody says something, you have to believe them, you have to check it out,” Memphis Police Department spokesperson Louis Brownlee said.
FBI agents took the threats of McVicker seriously enough to arrest him last week in Indianapolis. According to a probable cause affidavit, McVicker told a friend on the phone last Wednesday he would shoot up a church in Memphis this Thursday and was haunted by ‘spiritual snakes and spiders’ in his bed. That friend alerted an FBI officer, before McVicker potentially made those threats a reality at a Memphis place of worship.
“Want to highlight the young lady who passed the information along to the FBI,” Brownlee said. “She did the right thing.”
Federal court records said a leave request from McVicker’s job confirmed he planned to spend time in Memphis later this week. McVicker’s mother also told investigators her son had a handgun and was being treated of schizophrenia.
Tuesday after news of the threat emerged, Memphis churches took extra precautions.
“I pray that wherever this hatred is coming from that God will put a shield of protection around all of us,” Pastor Keith Norman of First Broad Baptist Church said.
When he learned of the threat Tuesday morning, Pastor Norman immediately alerted his staff.
“When the FBI confirms that there is a threat, we immediately go to those precautionary measures,” Pastor Norman said.
McVicker’s arrest followed similar arrests last week of men in Connecticut, Florida, and Ohio, who posted online or sent text messages with threats of carrying out mass shootings.