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Four Shot at Oregon Scientology Center

September 26, 1996 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ A man who blamed his business problems on the Church of Scientology shot four people at a downtown branch and started a fire with a can of gasoline, authorities said.

Jairus C. Godeka, 38, who was under court order not to have any contact with the church, surrendered after walking out with a female hostage who was heard shouting: ``Don’t do anything. He’s got a gun to my head.″

Police talked Godeka into releasing the woman unharmed and dropping his gun.

Another woman, who is at least four months pregnant, was shot in the shoulder and hospitalized in critical condition. Firefighters found church worker Helen Burke, 44, hiding in a stairwell.

The center’s executive director was in fair condition with a wound to his right side and another man was in serious condition with a wound to his chest. The fourth victim was treated for a wound to his buttocks and released.

Firefighters quickly put out the blaze, which did not cause serious damage. The man had carried a 1-gallon can of gas and ignited the floor near a reception desk.

Godeka was arrested on charges of attempted aggravated murder, arson, kidnapping, assault and burglary. 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 record for crimes including drunken driving and minor thefts dating back to 1984, police Lt. Cliff Madison said.

He had run-ins with the downtown branch in 1994 and again last February, when he demanded $50,000 and threatened to shoot everyone in the church, said Karin Pouw, a church spokeswoman in Los Angeles.

``It was the typical ranting of a psychotic,″ Pouw said, adding that Godeka was not a church member.

Godeka was convicted of attempted coercion for threatening the church in February. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, and ordered not to have any contact with the church as a condition of his probation.

He apparently had once taken the church’s personality test and bought some Scientology books, Burke told police after the threats in February. For some reason, he blamed his business problems on the church, police quoted her as saying.

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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.

The church claims as adherents a number of celebrities, including John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Anne Archer and Chick Corea.