Man Arrested After Fire at Oregon Church
SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ A man accused of bursting into a church, sloshing fuel onto congregants and setting a fire had spent five years in a psychiatric hospital after being convicted of killing his daughter, records show.
No one in the church had ever seen the man, later identified as Kam Shing Chan, before the incident Wednesday night, said the Rev. Scott Erickson, pastor of the Peoples Church.
Parishioners managed to subdue Chan and smother the flames with their coats, Erickson said. Two older women from the congregation were burned when their clothing caught fire.
Chan, 53, also known as Daniel Chan, was being held on charges of attempted aggravated murder, attempted assault, arson and reckless burning, prosecutors said. A judge denied bail Friday, saying Chan would be a danger to the community.
Chan was released from the Oregon State Hospital to a halfway house in 1995, five years after being found guilty but insane in the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, Cindy, state records show.
He also kidnapped a neighbor and robbed the grocery store where he worked, records show.
Trial testimony indicated Chan thought he was acting under God’s orders. Mental health experts testified he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Until his suspected role in the church fire, he had not violated conditions of his release, a state official said.
On Wednesday, Chan ran down the church’s aisle but was caught when Laverne Marks, 65, stuck out her foot and tripped him, said Erickson, who wasn’t inside the church at the time but spoke to members.
``He ... was yelling things about the blood, and then he began to sprinkle the fluid and light it,″ Erickson said. ``He was making slurs about things that are most precious to us.″
Chan is suspected of hijacking a cab to get to the church, said Deputy Kevin Rau, a spokesman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. A cabdriver had been threatened with a knife and had a slight neck wound, authorities said.
About 300 people were in the church, said the Rev. Sam Miller, who was conducting the service Wednesday night.
The fire burned about 13 pews.
Arlene Anderson, whose hair and back were on fire, was rolled on the carpet to get the flames out and taken to the hospital with burns, Erickson said. She was treated and released. Another woman’s dress caught on fire, but it was quickly extinguished, Erickson said.
``This is all very upsetting,″ he said. ``This won’t deter us from having services. We’ll go on, and we can assure everyone that they are safe here.″
The Peoples Church was closed Thursday as the sheriff’s department investigated the incident. The Pentecostal church, a member of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, would be open for Sunday services, the pastor said.