Gunman Who Took Over Temple Said to be Upset With Church
KENSINGTON, Md. (AP) _ Clarence Leake’s disappointment with the Mormon church sparked his overnight armed takeover of a portion of the massive Mormon Temple outside Washington, D.C., the gunman’s father and his former bishop say.
Leake, 29, took two hostages during his 12-hour standoff with police that ended at 8:50 a.m. Thursday, but he surrendered and let both go free without causing any injuries or damage, Montgomery County police said.
″He’s been brainwashed by the Mormon church for years,″ said Leake’s father, Donald Leake, as his son was charged with kidnapping, two counts of false imprisonment and use of a handgun in commission of a felony. ″He supports it heavily but apparently was not progressing enough in their teachings so they dropped him. You know, to a person fairly religious, that can be devastating.″
Leake added, ″He takes life more seriously than most young people do.″
Said Gale Brimhall, who was Leake’s bishop for four years, ″This was his attempt to say, ‘Look, the church is not doing enough to solve (world) problems, and God has spoken to me, directed me and I’m going to take control and have my own church.’
″He never really accepted the Mormon church as the institution that would help solve the greater problems of the world. He really saw himself doing that with his own ideas, his own religion,″ Brimhall said.
Leake, a carpenter from Harrisonburg, Va., who took odd jobs, was being held this morning at the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville, Md., on $50,000 bond, said Officer Patricia Fiker at the jail.
Police said Leake made no threats or demands, except asking for breakfast, and no shots were fired during the incident.
Police spokesman Harry Geehreng said Leake entered the temple at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday but police were not informed of the problem until an hour later. He said church members inside the temple were told to leave and morning sessions were canceled as reporters and photographers waited at the gate through the night.
Geehreng said the man attempted to enter the rear basement of the building using his expired pass, and when told he could not gain access, he pulled out a handgun and said, ″Maybe this will gain me access.″
Authorities said Leake then marched Carl Olson, 64, of Burke, Va., who opened the temple door for him, to the seventh floor, considered the holiest section of the towering marble building. The room, known as the Solemn Assembly, is used for meetings by the church president.
The two men stayed there throughout the incident, police said. Jose Mendez, 20, a security guard, became a hostage when he entered the Solemn Assembly after hearing voices.
Mendez later said that during the next several hours, Leake listened to the World Series on a radio he had brought, talked about bombs he claimed to have planted in the temple, dozed and played ″fantasy roles.″ Mendez would not describe those roles.
Police never found explosives.
Leake released Olson before 3 a.m. when he became concerned that Olson appeared to be turning pale, Mendez said.
Police had surrounded the temple during the night, negotiating with the man over a two-way radio taken from the security guard.
The episode ended when Leake laid his gun on the floor and emerged from the room with Mendez, both with their hands held over their heads, police said.
A church spokesman said the temple interior was not damaged and the building was reopened for religious ceremonies later in the afternoon.
Leake’s father said he believed his son had been excommunicated. But a church official said there was no record of excommunication.
Church spokeswoman Beverly Campbell said she contacted the three top church leaders in Harrisonburg and none had excommunicated Leake or knew of any motivation for his actions.
She said Leake was carrying an expired ″temple recommend″ or pass that, had it been valid, would have allowed him to perform baptisms for ancestors. Only devout Mormons are allowed in temples, although Mrs. Campbell said police and firemen sometimes enter temples for emergencies and for routine safety inspections.
The six-spired temple, topped by an 18-foot gold leaf statue of the ancient Mormon prophet Moroni, is one of 39 in operation throughout the world and attracts Mormon faithful from the eastern states and Canada. More than 5,000 church members file through each week for baptisms, marriages and special sealing ceremonies that Mormons believe unite families beyond the grave.
The temple was built for $15 million in 1974. Its white marble walls appear windowless, but church officials say it has invisible windows covered with 5/ 8 -inch-thick translucent marble.