Oct 9, 2015

Scientology gunman received University of Oregon degree this year, worked on campus

Maxine Bernstein
The Oregonian/OregonLive 
September 30, 2015



Jairus Chegero Godeka, the man responsible for shooting four people at Portland's downtown Scientology Celebrity Centre in 1996. In 1998, he was found "guilty except for insanity" and placed in custody of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board. On Thursday, Sept. 30, 2015, Godeka, now 57, urged the state panel to release him from its control and allow him to return to his native country, Kenya. (The Oregonian)
SALEM -- The man who shot four people 19 years ago at Portland's downtown Scientology center earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Oregon last spring, worked in the campus cafeteria part time while a student and now lives in a group home in Springfield.

Jairus Chegero Godeka appeared Wednesday before the state's Psychiatric Security Review Board, arguing that he poses no danger to the community and should no longer be under the board's control.

He asked to return to his native Kenya and offered to give up his right to come back to the United States. He even asked to be placed on the no-fly list to prevent it. He promised to find a reputable psychiatrist in his home country to continue with treatment.

"He's been out among us in the community working with students and others pretty seamlessly,'' Godeka's lawyer, Harris Matarazzo, told the three-member board.

Godeka, now 57 with slightly graying hair, was dressed in a brown suit, red-and-black tie and arrived with a briefcase. He sat silently beside his lawyer throughout the more-than-two-hour hearing.

He's been in the custody of the state board since he was found "guilty except for insanity'' in March 1998 for the shooting two years earlier at the Scientology Celebrity Centre. He was sentenced to up to 120 years.

But he's been out of the Oregon State Hospital since he was granted a conditional release in June 2005 to live in a secure residential treatment center in Lane County. In 2013, he was allowed to attend UO classes without supervision.

By July 2014, the board further eased restrictions on Godeka, permitting him to live in a licensed unlocked residential group home and attend community events unsupervised. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor of arts in cinema studies in May.

Helen Healy, the pregnant woman Godeka shot and paralyzed from the waist down, a state assistant attorney general, lawyers for the Church of Scientology and other church members vehemently opposed any further loosening of conditions.

Healy, now 63 and still working for the church in Portland, said her view hasn't changed in the nearly two decades since the shooting.

Releasing Godeka back into society, with no controls, puts people in peril, she argued. She teared up as she explained that her daughter died at age 2 because of the brain injuries the girl suffered that day.

"I don't feel vindictive towards him. My concern is the well-being of my fellow citizens of this state,'' she said. "There's no way of knowing what his voices will tell him next.''

In a written statement to the board, the Church of Scientology urged the board to consider the heinous nature of Godeka's crimes, evidence that he still harbors delusions about the church and documented violations of his current conditions of release.

The shooting was one of the more spectacular crimes in Portland's history. During a busy downtown lunch hour on Sept. 26, 1996, Godeka went into the center's reception area at 709 S.W. Salmon St. with a red can of gasoline, a .45-caliber Ruger semiautomatic handgun and dozens of rounds of ammunition. He shot Healy – then known as Helen Burke, as she sat at the lobby desk.

He then quickly shot and wounded two men who came to her aid. A third man discovered he'd been shot about an hour later. Godeka set fire to the lobby, took a fifth person hostage and tried to escape before police talked him into surrendering. Godeka's exact motives were unclear, but he claimed that Scientology drove him crazy, ruined his business and owed him $50,000.

In an unstructured environment where he may not take his medications, Godeka could act on his impulses and attack others again, said attorney Colin Hunter, representing the church. "The church doesn't want to punish. It wants to protect," he said.

Assistant Attorney General Byron Hadley said the state was disturbed by Godeka's offer to leave the country. "It feels like an attempt at bartering. It's negotiating. It's not what this board, this hearing is about," he said.

He argued that Godeka still has limited insight into his mental illness and still reports audible and tactile hallucinations.

Psychiatrist Dr. Satyanarayana Chandragivi testified that he diagnosed Godeka with schizophrenia and that Godeka is taking medication, but still has hallucinations.

Godeka sometimes hears three women's voices in his head, thinks a demon is inside his body and has fears about the Church of Scientology that he doesn't think are symptoms of his illness, the psychiatrist said. Chandragivi opposed Godeka's discharge or a relaxing of his supervision.

At the same time, Chandragivi described Godeka as a "total gentleman" and hard-working student who is now taking classes online toward a master's in education, though Godeka will be restricted from getting a teacher's license.

The board deliberated about 15 minutes before rejecting Godeka's requests to relinquish its control over him, travel to Africa or relax his living conditions.

"You continue to be a substantial danger to others," board chair Kate Lieber told him. "There's still more work you need to do'' to move to a lower level of care, she said. She encouraged him to find other suitable work; the university job ended when he graduated.

Godeka also had asked to attend UO football games at Autzen Stadium without supervision. The UO's dean of students urged the board to have Godeka "appropriately supervised'' at any game. The board said Godeka must get a case manager's approval before attending a public event, but didn't require supervision.

"Because of the severity of his crimes and the recurring nature of his mental illness - we are relieved that the board weighed in on the side of public safety and the protection of the community,'' said attorney Steven Ungar, also representing the Church of Scientology.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/09/scientology_gunman_received_uo.html
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