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Back in May, 27-year-old John Channels pulled out a handgun and began shooting inside Catholic Charities in Omaha, Nebraska, leading workers to scream and scatter at the sight of bodies and blood on the ground, doing anything they could to avoid the shooter.

There were no gunshot victims that day, however, because the entire thing was staged. The gun shot blanks. The bodies were actors. The blood was fake. Everyone was in on it… except the workers themselves.

It was all part of an active shooter drill requested by the Catholic group’s leaders and designed by Channels. He’s now “facing five charges of terroristic threats and one charge of weapon use,” according to the Omaha World-Herald. (That’s in addition to the separate charges of sexual assault and production of child sexual abuse material.)

“Bad, bad idea,” Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Tuesday. “Bad enough what happened — somebody could have gotten killed. Just think of the potential things that could have happened with this — it’s frightful.

“Thankfully, nobody else got hurt more serious than the mental damage these individuals suffered.”

It all leads to a simple question: What the hell were the people at Catholic Charities thinking?!

Catholic Charities of Omaha Executive Director Denise Bartels didn’t respond to the newspaper’s request for comment, nor did she answer what her group was doing to help staffers deal with their trauma after avoiding the fake shooter. All she offered was a basic statement about how Catholic Charities is cooperating with law enforcement.

In several cases, the workers believed they were about to die and even took drastic actions to save their lives:

[Sandra Lopez] then heard three gunshots behind her. She ran as fast as she could toward a retaining wall, with a dumpster several feet below. Lopez tried to jump into the dumpster to hide. She landed outside the dumpster and curled into the fetal position. Fearing she would be found and killed, Lopez then ran about three blocks to a fast-food restaurant to hide inside.

“[Amanda] Driver stated she ran away from the building harder than she has ever run before because she believed she was about to be shot.”

What would have happened if a “good guy with a gun” decided to shoot an actual weapon in self-defense? Or if an elderly employee injured themselves (or had a heart attack) while running away? Or if someone chose to jump out of a second-story window believing it to be their only hope of survival?

What sort of trauma must these people be in? How could you ever trust your bosses after this?

Again: What the hell were the people at Catholic Charities thinking?!

Channels wasn’t a cheap date either. Catholic Charities’ leadership paid him $2,500 for the “training,” believing it to be necessary because the offices had just opened a domestic violence center. Not knowing who to turn to for such a training, they took a recommendation by a security guard and hired Channels. Then they took his advice and didn’t tell anyone this was only a practice drill.

And after he inflicted trauma upon the staff, he urged them to give him even more money:

Authorities said Channels asked employees after the training whether they had guns for protection; he also shared a business card encouraging them to pay for his firearms training class.

Leave it to Catholic leaders to make the worst imaginable choices at every turn…

Channels has since said he was doing everything by the book and that the Catholic Charities’ leaders “wanted it done that way.” Whatever the case, he remains in police custody and you can bet Catholic Charities will be hit with a number of lawsuits from employees.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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