Concerned over gun theft, Liberty church and school ask Academy Sports to improve safety

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- One spot in Thursday's multi-city crime spree is the focus of some frustration.

The Academy Sports and Outdoors store in Liberty is where 26-year-old Jeffrey Millsap jumped the store counter and, according to police, stole a handgun and ammunition after pulling a knife on a store clerk.

Police say Millsap used the gun to wound a car dealer in Independence. Millsap was later shot and killed by police in Holt.

That store shares a property line with St. James Catholic Church and School on S. Stewart Road.

Leaders of that Roman Catholic Parish said they've asked Academy to safeguard against incidents like this one, but their previous conversations didn't yield satisfying results.

"We want to be proactive about what we are doing for security and safety," said Father Mike Roach, St. James' pastor.

Thursday morning's incident was too close for comfort. The Academy store sits less than 50 yards away from the school and church. No children were on campus when Millsap's theft and chase began, but Roach said there were church members in the building.

"We had a sigh of relief that we weren't in school and children weren`t on campus," said Jennifer Scanlon-Smith, St. James' school principal.

Roach said 385 students attend St. James Catholic School. They're not scheduled to return from holiday break until next week.

"We have grown increasingly concerned over the sale of weapons and ammunition next door without adequate security within their store," Roach said.

The pastor said he's talked with corporate leaders at Academy about safety during gun sales, and Academy's team assured him they were doing their best.

"The fact that the person was able to hold the gun, to put in ammunition while he was in the store and flee the store so quickly without them knowing where he went," Roach said.

"Our understanding is the guns aren't locked. They're not behind a locked bar or lock and key at this time," Scanlon-Smith said. "We've reached out to them to be a good neighbor, and we'd hope they will do the same."

Roach said he's suggested to Academy's team to sell guns and ammo on separate sides of the store, making it harder for gun thefts to take place.

FOX4 News reached out to Academy's public relations office in Houston, but our request for comment on the church's plea for cooperation wasn't returned.

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