SBTC DR and local church volunteers help rebuild in Levelland following fatal standoff

Neighbors and family pitched in with DR volunteers to rebuild the Mejia family's fence that was damaged in the deadly July 15 standoff in their Levelland neighborhood. Photo by Kyle Sadler.

LEVELLAND Volunteers with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief and Texas Rebuild helped repair homes damaged during a deadly July shooting in Levelland, some 30 miles west of Lubbock, that killed one law enforcement officer and wounded four others.

Levelland emergency management contacted SBTC DR to request help for the homeowners affected by the deadly standoff, which occurred after an armed suspect barricaded himself in his mobile home.

Kyle Sadler of Houston, SBTC DR task force member for Texas Rebuild, opted to use area crews—a combination of credentialed SBTC DR and Texas Rebuild volunteers—to help restore the community.

Sadler, with SBTC DR volunteers Barbara and Steve Dunn and TBM’s Barry Shurratt, spent Aug. 13 helping the Mejia family and their neighbors restore the Mejias’ fence that had been damaged in the standoff.

“We put in new posts and new metal,” Sadler said. “The metal was donated by Mueller Building Systems and Higginbotham Brothers donated materials also.” The SBTC worked with a local glass company and paid for the replacement of another neighbor’s window shattered during the shooting, he added.

Pastor Joe Smith of Liberty Church poses for a selfie with Rosemary and Nathan Mejia, with the new fence in the background. Liberty members are scheduled to repair another fence at a later date. Photo by Joe Smith.

Even before work began, Sadler contacted Joe Smith, pastor of Liberty Church in Levelland, for help both in getting local volunteers and to ensure that opportunities occurred for survivors to connect with a local church.

“The chief target for Texas Rebuild [a DR program started in the wake of Hurricane Harvey] is to connect with the local church about the local need, so we can harvest that relationship. It becomes a church project. We provide the resources,” Sadler explained.

While Liberty volunteers were unable to come for the Aug. 13 project because of their own job commitments, Smith did make contact with the family of the alleged shooter and began the process of scheduling a later work project to refurbish a chain link fence that had surrounded the suspect’s home.

Smith was no stranger to the area of modest houses and mobile homes where the shooting occurred. Members from Liberty Church had been ministering in the neighborhood long before the incident, canvassing the community and holding “Church at the Park” at nearby parks.

Smith told the TEXAN he had even met the alleged shooter two months before, when a Liberty Church member who had befriended the young man made the introduction. The member continued to invite the man to church, but noticed changes in his behavior, none of which seemed indicative of the tragedy ahead.

On July 15, things evidently went downhill rapidly when a neighbor saw the suspect—known as a “good kid” generally, Smith said—walking about with a rifle. Law enforcement was summoned. The subsequent standoff ended when robotically delivered chemical agents drove the suspect from his home and he was arrested.

“The officers, even with the loss of one of their own, did what they were called to do,” Smith said of the safely conducted arrest.

Smith told Sadler he had been able to pray with the officers.

Lubbock County sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Josh Bartlett, commander of the sheriff’s tactical unit, died of his injuries in a Levelland hospital the day of the shooting.

“I couldn’t imagine being in the crossfire of a standoff like [what happened in Levelland], with the exchange of fire going on outside my house,” Sadler said.

As of press time, Smith said the fence repair project had yet to be scheduled. The intention is to repurpose the fence to provide extra security for the neighborhood, he said, adding that several members of his church are construction workers who have volunteered to donate their labor on a Saturday.

“You might say this is a small job, but no job is too small to touch someone’s life. The relationships we built with the Mejias and the community have opened doors,” Sadler said.

“In the wake of such a tragic event we are grateful to serve the people of Levelland and Hockley County,” said SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice.

Levelland is the Hockley County seat. The oil, cotton and cattle center is home to about 13,500 residents.

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