A man carried a gun and a can of gasoline into a downtown Church of Scientology on Wednesday, shooting four church members and starting a fire.
The suspect surrendered after walking out of the church’s Portland Celebrity Centre with a female hostage who was heard shouting: “Don’t do anything. He’s got a gun to my head.” Police talked the man into releasing the woman unharmed and dropping his handgun.
Firefighters quickly put out the blaze, which caused minor damage.
A pregnant woman was hospitalized in critical condition with a gunshot to her shoulder and abdominal trauma. Firefighters found the woman, Helen Burke, 44, of Portland, hiding in a stairwell. Three men, including the center’s director, also were hospitalized.
Jairus C. Godeka, 38, was arrested on charges of attempted aggravated murder, arson, kidnapping, assault and burglary. Godeka, originally from Kenya, is a legal resident of the United States with a criminal record for crimes including drunken driving and minor thefts dating back to 1984, said police Lt. Cliff Madison.
He had run-ins with the Celebrity Centre in 1994 and again last February. The latest incident resulted in a criminal conviction for attempted coercion for threatening the church. He was given 10 days in jail.
Karin Pouw, a church spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said he demanded $50,000 and threatened to shoot everyone in the church.
“It was the typical ranting of a psychotic,” she said. Pouw said Godeka was not a member of the church.
He apparently had once taken the church’s personality test and bought some Scientology books, Burke told police in connection with the threats in February. For some reason, he blamed his business problems on the church.
The Celebrity Centre’s executive director, Steven Crandell, 45, of Portland was in fair condition with a gunshot wound to his right side. Carlos Colon, 24, of Clearwater, Fla., was in serious condition with a gunshot wound to his chest. Jim Stone, 43, of Portland was shot in the right buttocks and was treated and released.
Founded 40 years ago by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve human problems. Hubbard died in 1986 at the age of 74.
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