Man kills self in Crystal Cathedral

February 18, 2009 1:27:43 PM PST
man shot and killed himself in front of a cross inside televangelist Robert H. Schuller's Crystal Cathedral on Wednesday, police and church officials said. The man handed a note and his driver's license to two ushers, walked to the cross and then shot himself in the head as he appeared to be praying, Senior Pastor Juan Carlos Ortiz said.

The man's identity was not released, but police Lt. Dennis Ellsworth said the man was in his 40s. Church spokesman Mike Nason said there was no record of the man at the cathedral.

Betty Spicer, a volunteer usher at the famous sanctuary, said she greeted the man when he entered. She said he handed her a folded note with two cards inside as the man told her: "You may want this."

Spicer said he then walked to the foot of the cross. She and another volunteer said they thought the man was praying when she heard a pop.

A tourist, one in a group of seven or eight visitors from Canada, told her the man had shot himself.

"I didn't realize it. I thought he was praying," Spicer said.

The volunteer said one of the man's cards was a driver's license, and that the note mentioned a pickup truck in the parking lot.

Cathedral spokesman John Charles said none of the tourists was injured.

The glass-walled 10,000-member megachurch in Orange County is home to the "Hour of Power" broadcast, an evangelism staple aired internationally for more than three decades. Thousands visit the cathedral to see where the broadcast is filmed before a live congregation.

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Associated Press writer Amy Taxin in Tustin contributed to this report.

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