Pastor threatens to shoot up congregation at his old church, California cops say

Jared Gilmour

A part-time pastor at a Northern California church was arrested Thursday after police said he made alarming shooting threats against another church, where he used to be a member.

Paul Michaelson, 79, was caught on security cameras dropping four concerning letters off at Holy Trinity Church in San Carlos — letters in which he wrote threats to shoot members of the congregation this Sunday, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said the fact that Michaelson “is a pastor of a San Mateo church” makes “his alleged threat of violence against another congregation all the more disturbing.”

Members of the targeted church told detectives that Michaelson used to be a member, but “felt wronged after asking for help from the church and not receiving what he wanted,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Michaelson, who lives in San Carlos, “reportedly penned and delivered the letters between Jan. 7 and 16,” CBS SF reports.

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Church officials confirmed that Michaelson “served as a part-time outreach pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in San Mateo, which is part of the same synod or network of Lutheran churches as Holy Trinity,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

“Understanding that an arrest is not a conviction, we are at a loss to understand why anyone would attempt to disrupt the ministry of a congregation whose intent is to be a haven of peace, inclusivity and reconciliation in the community,” Bishop Mark Holmerud said in a statement, according to the Mercury News.

Deputies said no guns were discovered when detectives raided Michaelson’s home and belongings, “but we took a further step to prevent him from being able to purchase any guns ... in the future.”

“We take all threats of violence extremely seriously and our detectives went to great lengths to set up security plans and safety measures for members of this church,” deputies said. “If anyone has information to provide regarding this incident they are encouraged to call Detective Cosens at 650-363-4347.”

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Detective Rosemerry Blankswade said the letters Michaelson left exhibited “deeply rooted” anger at the church, according to the Mercury News, which reported that “investigators declined to share more about the grievances ..., Blankswade said, adding that there is no evidence at this time that the threats stemmed from a documented mental illness.”

Authorities booked Michaelson at Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City on Thursday, according to CBS.