NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A brutal attack at a French church Tuesday and other recent violent attacks in our area and across the world have forced local clergy members to discuss their own.
"I've discussed it with the bishops," Archbishop for New Orleans Gregory Aymond said. "But quite frankly, I'm not sure if there is anything we can do. We could become a target. In a like manner, police officers have become a target for some people, and that could also happen to a priest or anybody who is religious leader."
Aymond said he fears for the safety of clergy members across the country after two men killed a French priest during morning Mass. Investigators said the attack was carried out in the name of ISIS.
"The hatred and violence is rampant. It's out of control," Aymond said.
"It is an aspect of the explosion of social media," Former FBI Special Agent-in-Charge for New Orleans Jim Bernazzani said.
ISIS urges lone wolves to carry out attacks and that message spreads quickly on social media.
"We have an individual in his bedroom going on the social platform that ISIS populates and gets self-inspired. He either grabs a weapon or a knife and does what he does," Bernazzani said.
In the instance of the Baton Rouge attack, Gavin Long, the man who shot six officers, killing three, used social media as a platform to spread his message.
"If y'all want to keep protesting, keep doing that. But for the real ones, the serious ones, the alpha ones, we know what it's going to take. It's either fighting back or money. That's all they care about, revenue and blood," Long said in a YouTube.com post.
It is those potential threats online that U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said law enforcement focus on in their investigations.
"Deep dives into social media are absolutely critical parts of the way that our partners at FBI, CIA, ATF and DEA how they do that work at this point," Polite said. "It will continue to grow, I would imagine, as a tool as we move on into more sophisticated investigations into these kinds of matters."
Polite said authorities have started to take threats against law enforcement or members of the community posted online seriously, especially after recent attacks.