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Four Church Members Shot at Oregon Scientology Center

September 26, 1996 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ A man carried a pistol and a can of gasoline into a downtown Church of Scientology on Wednesday, starting a fire and shooting four church members, including a pregnant woman.

Jairus Godeka, 38, 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 hostage unharmed and dropping his handgun.

The pregnant woman who was shot earlier was hospitalized in critical condition with a gunshot wound in her shoulder. Two men, including the executive director of the center, were in serious condition and a fourth victim was hospitalized in fair condition with a gunshot wound to his buttocks.

Firefighters quickly put out the blaze and it did not cause serious damage. The man had carried a 1-gallon can of gas.

Godeka was charged with attempted aggravated murder, arson, kidnapping, assault and burglary. Investigators said they had no idea what prompted the shooting. The church, however, denounced it as a hate crime.

``There’s a lesson here, and the lesson is about the damage religious hate mongers cause,″ said a statement issued by the church’s Los Angeles office.

Godeka, originally from Kenya, is a legal resident of the United States with a criminal record that includes 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 in February. The latest incident resulted in criminal charges for blackmail and extortion.

``It was the typical ranting of a psychotic,″ said Karin Pouw, a church spokeswoman.

Court records indicate Godeka was convicted of coercion for threatening the church, given 10 days in jail and placed on probation. Conditions of probation included that he have no contact with the church and not possess any weapons.

The building, in the heart of downtown Portland, features displays of Scientology books and is devoted to assisting artists.

``Any shooting is pretty disturbing. But our business is for the public so we’re not going to keep people out,″ said Barbara Roland, a church community organizer.

Founded 40 years ago by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve human problems.