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Four Shot at Oregon Scientology Center

September 25, 1996 GMT

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

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 and it did not cause serious damage.

The pregnant woman was hospitalized in critical condition with gunshots to her shoulder and abdomen. Two men were in serious condition and a fourth victim was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the hip.

It was not immediately clear what motivated the shooting. The name of the suspect was not released.

Witnesses across the street at The Heathman Hotel said another suspect fled the scene. Police spokesman Lt. Cliff Madison said he had no information on a second suspect.

``Our reservation manager said she saw two men throw something into the building and a flash of fire and two men run away,″ said Lorraine Thayer, the hotel’s sales manager.

``Then we were looking out the window and saw the police with their guns drawn and so we got away from the window and closed the blinds and turned off the lights. We saw one man lying on the sidewalk,″ Thayer said.

The building, located in the heart of downtown Portland, features big displays of Scientology books, and Scientologists often attempt to persuade passers-by to listen to talks about the religion.

``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.