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2008 Church of Scientology Shooting

Lesson Learned from a Deadly-Force Church Attack

Eight year old child reading a book at home. Boy studying at table on blue background.

Based on the Safety Member Certification training module "Active Shooter Response" and the Church Security Guide article "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training."[1][2][3]

From the Bible

* The "Sons of the Prophets" were lifetime students of Elijah, Elisha, and other senior prophets, and they themselves were prophets.

And the guard stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, round about the king, from the right corner of the temple to the left corner of the temple, along by the altar and the temple (2 Kings 11:11).


In the Bible verse above, all of those Levites who served as Temple guards were called to all serve at once. Their assignment was to deny entry to Athaliah (the wicked usurper queen) during the coronation of the rightful king.

There were two Church of Scientology attacks ten years and four months apart in the Los Angeles area, November 2008 in Hollywood and March 2019 in Inglewood. There was also an earlier shooting, March 1999 in Portland, Oregon. One thing they had in common is that each suspect had some personal connection to Scientology. Our lesson learned is from the Hollywood incident.

At the Gate of the Temple

Whatever else we may think of Scientology, it is a religion. It has beliefs and practices based on those beliefs. Its organization's name is The Church of Scientology, and it conducts religious services, some on Sundays. Some of its churches are called Celebrity Centres. The first one, in Hollywood, California, is where this shooting took place.

On Sunday, November 23, 2008. a man in a red convertible stopped in the parking lot of the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood and got out. Carrying two Samurai swords, he went to the main entrance and asked to be let in.

Two armed security guards at the entrance told him he could not come in. He began waving the swords and threatening to kill anyone who got in his way. The guards pulled out their weapons and told him to drop the swords and leave. Instead, he continued to threaten and approached one guard, waving the swords menacingly. The guards fired in defense, wounding the assailant and ending the attack.

Devilish Behavior

The assailant was no stranger to Scientology. Eighteen years earlier he had been a member and had signed his name on an affidavit supporting the church's lawsuit against a major news publisher to keep them from publishing an article critical of the organization.

Also, while attending UCLA, he and another student sued a professor. They claimed that this faculty member persecuted them because of their religious affiliation.

This former member was mentally unstable, but not because of Scientology. He had been mentally ill before joining. Apparently he hoped that he would overcome his mental illness through Dianetics. In his case, that did not work, and he was not a member for long.

Until the time of the shooting, the attacker had moved often, living at several addresses. His last residence was a city in southern Oregon. He had a record of odd behaviors wherever he was. This included dressing like a demon with horns and terrifying children passing by his house.

For a number of years he repeatedly threatened the Church of Scientology through phone calls and the mail. One possible motive for his hatred of the organization may have been the large amount of money spent for Dianetics sessions. Our purpose here is not to evaluate the church's methods. However, in this case, it seems that their methods would not have worked anyway.

At the time he tried to get into the Celebrity Centre with swords, he was on probation for threatening and stalking a judge in Oregon. His threats to the church probably put him on a watch list, and could have been one reason he was denied admittance "at the gate of the temple.".


Why the swords? A bit more than ten years later, another man showed up with a large sword, and there's a reason. In the science fiction and fantasy writings of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, Excalibur was King Arthur's sword, and only he could wield it. Therefore, carrying a sword was symbolic of personal power over evil forces in the world. To sane people, the sword was obviously not to be used in a literal, physical way. In this incident, it seems that the assailant thought he had power over Scientology by using its own weapon(s). This we cannot know for sure, since he is not here to tell us.

The Impact

The attacker died from his wounds. The guards were not charged, since they were defending themselves as well as those inside the building.

This news caused a stir not only in Southern California, but around the world. It was reported in papers and on broadcast media across the nation and around the world. This may be partially attributed to Scientology's international presence and famous members.

Because the Church of Scientology is secretive about any internal affairs, we cannot know what changes in their security may have resulted from this incident. However, considering how the 2019 shooting unfolded, they may have improved their use of verbal de-escalation. In that incident, it was responding police officers who did the shooting.

Lesson Learned: What Was Right

Let's look at what the Church did that was right.

First, for a long time local Scientology churches have had security guards. This is a reasonable precaution, since the church has been controversial and the target of many threats.

As in this case, some of the threats are from former members. Most threats are of legal actions and/or disclosure of organizational secrets, but some are of violence to one degree or another.

Guards are posted at the entrances where they can deny entrance to suspicious persons or those who have been issued no-trespass orders.

Guards are alert for anyone on a watch list. In this incident, the suspect was a known person who had threatened the church several times. Considering how many known threats there may be for a high-profile organization such as the Church of Scientology, a watch list may have several persons on it, complete with photos. Most local churches would have a smaller watch list, when they do have one, with only one or two persons on it. This makes it easier to be on the lookout for that subject.

The guards were watchful for suspicious objects, especially weapons. In Scientology, a sword may have been symbolic, related to the teachings of the church. However, to approach the gate of the temple with a drawn sword is rightfully viewed as a threat and not preparation for a lesson or ceremony. We presume that these guards were also alert for signs of other weapons, especially firearms.

The guards did not draw their own weapons until the suspect refused to put his down, They did not shoot until personally threatened, but again asked him to disarm and leave.

One place where we may have questions is verbal de-escalation. News accounts do not clearly describe it in this incident. However, this may have been a case where it would not have worked anyway, considering the mental state and history of the assailant.


While watching the approaches to the church's main entry, watch for known threats and be alert for any signs of weapons.

Training Notes

Training is important in equipping your Church Safety Team to respond to emergencies, such as an active killer incident, Two of our training venues are the Safety Member Certification training modules (classes) and Sheepdog Church Security Academy blog (videocasts and podcasts).

Safety Member Certification

The 2023-2024 Online Events school year has already started. We are halfway through the first quarter, but there are three more quarters with the same round of eight classes. If you start now, you can become a Certified Safety Member by January 7, 2024. See the schedule below:





Training Module


Sep 10

Nov 12

Jan 28

Mar 24

Safety Team Fundamentals


Sep 17

Nov 19

Feb 4

Apr 7

Active Shooter Response


Sep 24

Dec 3

Feb 11

Apr 14

Deescalating Disruptive Persons


Oct 1

Dec 10

Feb 18

Apr 21

Protecting Children from Abuse


Oct 8

Dec 17

Feb 25

Apr 28

Basic Use of Force Laws


Oct 15

Jan 7

Mar 3

May 5

Arson and Fire Safety


Oct 22

Jan 14

Mar 10

May 19

Storms and Disasters


Nov 5

Jan 21

Mar 17

Jun 2

Mass Trauma Emergencies

The other training formats, Team Certification (church-hosted classes) and Individual Certification (self-paced online instruction), are always available.

Sheepdog Church Security Academy

Kris discusses selected articles and special subjects in videocasts on Sheepdog Church Security Academy (a YouTube channel). The audios are on Church Security Roll Call podcasts).[4][5]


Sheepdog Church Security Resources

  1. Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Response," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  3. Kris Moloney, "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  4. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, YouTube [].
  5. Kris Moloney, Church Security Roll Call, SoundCloud [].

News Accounts

  1. "Celebrity Centre, "Violent incident," Wikipedia [].
  2. By the Associated Press, "Man shot, killed at Scientology building in LA," The San Diego Union-Tribune, November. 23, 2008 [].
  3. News Staff, "Man With Samurai Swords Shot, Killed at Scientology Building," NBC Los Angeles, November 24, 2008 [].
  4. Nancy Dillon, "Fatally shot Scientologist was mental patient on probation," New York Daily News, November 24, 2008 [].
  5. Associated Press, "Man Killed at Scientology Center Had Church Ties," Fox News, November 24, 2008, Updated January 13, 2015 [].
  6. AP, "Man killed at Scientology building had church ties," The San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 24, 2008 [].
  7. Zach Behrens, "Scientology Swordsman Identified as Former UCLA Student, Mario Majorski," LAist, November 24, 2008 [].
  8. Lori Tobias, "Florence man killed at LA scientology center had stalked Oregon judge," The Oregonian / OregonLive, November 25, 2008 [].
  9. News Staff, "No Charges in Sword Attack at Scientology Center," NBC Los Angeles, December 4, 2008 [].
  10. Jaclyn Cosgrove and Suhauna Hussain, "Two officers shot, suspect with sword dead at Church of Scientology in Inglewood," Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2019 [].
  11. Mark Osborne, "police officers shot after responding to man with sword at Church of Scientology," ABC News, March 28, 2019 [].
  12. Royal Rosamond, "Copycat Sword Attack?," Rosamond Press, March 28, 2019 [].
  13. Alex Johnson, "Man armed with sword fatally shot at Scientology church near Los Angeles," NBC Los Angeles, March 28, 2019 [].