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As the reality that a disturbed man outside St. John XXIII church could harm the parishioners inside dawned on him, Deacon Juan Carlos Viveros remembered some important lessons he learned at a diocesan training years earlier.

“It’s important to keep calm and do not try to attack the person,” Deacon Viveros recalled thinking. “The Holy Spirit guided us to be quiet.”

The incident took place on February 10 near the end of the 9 am Mass at St. John XXIII’s Rialto church on Easton Street. Deacon Viveros had arrived early to prepare to serve the 10:30 am Mass and noticed a young man near the grotto at the front of the church shouting at a small group of parishioners and ushers. The man appeared to be mentally disturbed, according to the deacon.

“He said something about our religion, that it’s not right,” Deacon Viveros said. “He said, ‘I can kill you right now – and I can go inside the church [and kill everybody there].”

The man appeared to have a gun in the pocket of his jacket, Deacon Viveros said.

Because of his faith, and his training, the deacon did not panic. He immediately and discreetly called police, then went inside the church and instructed the ushers to keep parishioners inside until the situation had been resolved outside.

“It’s important to keep calm,” he said in reflection. “Thanks be to God that nobody said anything [to the man].”

Minutes later the man left the front of the church and went out on to Easton Street and began shouting at those arriving for the 10:30 am Mass and waving his gun, Deacon Viveros said.

Rialto police later confirmed that the man was mentally disturbed and said that he was in possession of a fake gun, not an actual firearm. He was apprehended by police near a restaurant across the street from the church and arrested on charges of making criminal threats and possessing a counterfeit weapon.

Diocesan clergy, lay employees and volunteers are required to receive Active Shooter training through the Diocesan Office of Emergency Operations Collaborative (EOC).

“It was reassuring to learn that Deacon Viveros had completed our requisite training, and knew how to manage the situation in order to avoid harm to all,” said Ann Marie Gallant, EOC Director. “In this day and age, we must all remain vigilant to our surroundings – regardless of whether we are at work, play or ‘pray.’ ”

Deacon Viveros said he is thankful to have received the training as part of the Permanent Diaconate and added that other parish ministers at St. John XXIII still need to receive it.
“Our community has to be prepared for situations like this,” he said.