Man Threatened To Assassinate Scientology Leader And Members, Police Say
An Illinois man has been accused of threatening to assassinate the leader of the Church of Scientology and kill "every single" member of the church.Andre Barkanov has been arrested and charged on suspicion of vowing to kill the organization's leader, David Miscavige, as well as others connected to the church, reports the L.A. Times. Barkanov is said to have made the threats during several phone calls to the main number of the Church of Scientology, according to court papers filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Beginning on July 21, the first alleged threats occurred during five phone calls, which ranged from a few minutes to three hours. During one of them, the caller warned, "Get out, get out before it is too late," according to the filed affidavit. Church staff members said that the voice making the threatening calls was "definite, menacing and hostile," but also "calm and collected," and typically ended with a "thank you." In many of the calls staff members could also hear giggling in the background.
The day after the calls, the church's director of security, Kirsten Pedersen, and longtime lawyer, Kendrick Moxon, met with the LAPD's Hollywood Division and turned in transcripts and tapes of the phone calls.
Then on July 23, the church received eight more phone calls from the same number. During the last one, according to court papers, the caller said, "Tell [Miscavige] that we have a bullet for his forehead. Okay? Thank you."
Some of the calls came from a blocked number, but others were traced to a Skype account registered to Andre Barkan, an alias of Barkanov's, with an address in Chicago. When Chicago police went to the address, Barkanov refused to speak to them. According to the Times, he has been arrested several times, twice for impersonating an officer.
The Skype accounts also led police to a woman's home in Kenosha, Wis., where the unsecured wireless Internet could supposedly be accessed from a neighboring bar and apartments, investigators say. Barkanov was then identified by the bartender as "the Russian" who lived next door, which helped police track him to one of the apartments. Barkanov would later admit that he would conduct business in Kenosha and occasionally sleep at the apartment. In the apartment, investigators found several hard drives, blank 9-mm ammunition, and other electronic equipment, according to police reports.
Police arrested Barkanov in Kenosha on November 10, and he was then brought to a Los Angeles jail on December 17. He was charged with 12 counts of making criminal threats and one count of stalking, but pleaded not guilty to all charges during an arraignment on December 18. He is currently being held in L.A. County jail in lieu of $600,000 bail.
What motivated Barkanov's alleged threats is still unknown. Court papers did not indicate a relationship with Church of Scientology or Miscavige, and the church says he was never part of the church as staff or a member.
"From what we have been told, his actions appear to have been incited by anti-Scientology propaganda," Karin Pouw, the spokeswoman for the church told the Times. "This case involving an apparently unstable man who told police he was incited by anti-religious propaganda shows the dangers of bigotry and hate spread by irresponsible individuals."