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Sword Carrier Is Shot, Killed

Guards at Hollywood's Scientology Celebrity Centre were acting in self-defense, police say.

November 24, 2008|James Wagner and Harriet Ryan | Wagner and Ryan are Times staff writers.

A security guard at the Church of Scientology's Celebrity Centre in Hollywood on Sunday shot and killed a man wielding two samurai swords, police said.

Police detained the guard for questioning but said that a surveillance tape at the facility backed his claim that he fired his semiautomatic handgun to protect himself and two colleagues.

"The evidence is very clear the security officers were defending their safety," said Deputy Chief Terry S. Hara of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police did not release the name of the guard or the man killed in the shooting, which occurred about noon. An investigator said the man had a history with the church but was not a member now. The tape showed the man arriving at the Celebrity Centre's Bronson Avenue parking lot in a red convertible, getting out of the vehicle and approaching a trio of security guards and waving a sword in each hand, Hara said.

He said the man, who was described as being in his 40s, was "close enough to hurt them" when the guard fired. The man was taken to County-USC Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Det. Wendi Berndt said the man was involved with the church "a long time ago."

"There was a previous relationship, but it is unclear to what degree," she said.

A teenager who saw the man arrive in the parking lot said he stopped the car abruptly in the driveway and climbed out with a 5-foot sword in his hand and an angry expression on his face.

Tony Marquez, 17, said the man, who was bald and had tattoos on his arms, walked toward the building, then returned to the car to get the other sword.

"I thought it was part of a show," said Marquez, of Ontario. He and his mother entered the building before the shooting began.

Police said the guard worked for a private security company. Detectives cordoned off the Franklin Avenue complex with yellow tape as investigators combed through the man's Toyota Solara. The incident occurred at one of Hollywood's most distinctive landmarks. Originally a luxury hotel, the eight-story building was built in the style of a 17th century French castle with a striking white facade and turrets that loom over the nearby Hollywood Freeway.

The church remade the building into a facility aimed at celebrities 39 years ago. According to a church website, the Celebrity Centre caters to "artists, politicians, leaders of industry, sports figures and anyone with the power and vision to create a better world." The complex includes a restaurant, theater and hotel. Representatives of the church did not return calls.

"I have no information," said a woman who answered the phone at the Celebrity Centre.

The facility is ringed by a fence, and security cameras dot the property's perimeter. Guards on bikes also patrol the area.

"That is one thing about living here, you get free security," said Brant Hoibin, 34, who lives in an apartment adjacent to the Celebrity Centre.

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james.wagner@latimes.com

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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