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First person: Four Scientologists have been shot, and you’re being sent to audit the pain away

[An arrest on a day of carnage at Scientology’s Portland Celebrity Centre, 1996. Photo by Maxine Bernstein]

Sunny Pereira’s experiences in Scientology continue to knock us out. Once again, she’s written up an incident that stunned us for what she’s been through. And we’ll say up front, we condemn in the strongest terms the despicable act carried out by the severely mentally ill man at the center of this tale. We don’t care what you think of Scientology, it is never OK to harm Scientologists or their facilities. But in the wake of this horrible crime, a young woman in Los Angeles was parachuted in to help, and we have her remarkable story.

I ended up in Portland three times, all for Scientology catastrophes. The first time was the Portland Crusade in 1985, the second is this story, the Portland shooting, and the last time, well. I’ll get to that.

In 1996 I was posted as a Case Supervisor (a “C/S”) for CC Int, the Hollywood Celebrity Centre. That meant that I was always in an office cut off from the outside world. I was not supposed to mingle or socialize with staff, or anyone else I might be responsible for C/Sing — overseeing the counselling of Scientologists, which known as “auditing.” This was Hubbard policy, set in stone.

About the only person who came to visit and update me on what was going on around the org (besides regular executive visits) was my husband at the time, who, incidentally, was also in charge of routing folders in and out to the various C/Ses around the org. His name was Christophe.


One morning in September, Christophe came into my office and told me that the Portland Celebrity Centre had been attacked about half hour earlier. I was shocked and speechless. What kind of attack? What happened? Who?

He told me there was little information, but it appeared someone went into the org and started shooting. There were also reports of a fire. Christophe left my office, and I was in complete shock.

Not three minutes later I had the entire executive structure of Celebrity Centre in my office. Dave Petit, the Commanding Officer, informed me that I was going to Portland immediately. They did not tell me why. I already knew why, but they were not going to tell me, they were sending me to the management building at Hollywood and Ivar to get “briefed.”

I told them I would be ready to leave in 10 minutes. I barely had that time, and I knew it. They all left my office, and I immediately called my husband and told him I was leaving immediately to Portland. We didn’t know if I would be gone a day or months at this point (it ended up being 3 months). We said quick goodbyes and I took off to the executive offices in the basement. They already had a car set up to take me to the management building. Michele, from exec office at Celebrity Centre (she was in charge of all Celebrity Centres externally
such as Portland, Paris, Nashville, etc) was with me and telling me what she could. I told her Christophe already gave me some info. She knew that three people had been shot, and one was critical. They had all already been brought to the hospital in Portland (locally called “Pill hill”).

I was driven to the management building (HGB) on Hollywood and Ivar and rushed upstairs. There were probably 40 people all gathered. I was informed I would be sent there along with Sunny Jensen and Chris Swanson. Our team was the medical/auditing team. We were responsible for caring for the injured. We did not know what that would entail until we arrived. What are the odds two people named Sunny on an urgent project as this?

They had written instructions of the steps that we were expected to accomplish while there. Sunny J. was in charge of bossing us around. She was our administrative arm.

We were at the management building maximum of one hour. Our bags had been packed for us. A ride was waiting to take us to the airport.

I remember they booked us on a flight that we ended up missing because of security delay at the airport. I was bringing an E-meter with me, which ALWAYS freaks out security at the airport, and getting through takes a little longer because of it. We missed the flight by minutes and had to wait for the next one. Luckily there were flights every half hour.

I was being sent to help four Scientologists who had been shot, and on a moment’s notice. I was 23 years old.

We arrived in Portland and immediately went to the Celebrity Centre at 709 S.W. Salmon Street (today it’s a First Republic Bank branch), where we were met by the remaining staff there, inside the org. The front desk area was black from the fire and smoke. There was a heavy smell of smoke in the air. There was news media outside the org trying to get more information. We had been informed before we left LA to not engage with media at all, there would be others sent to do that.

We found out that the Executive Director, Steve, had been shot in the chest, a Sea Org member Carlos had been shot in the chest, the Public Officer, Helen, had been shot in the shoulder, and Jim, the Deputy ED had been shot in the buttock, but he didn’t realize it for several hours.

We also found out the Treasury Secretary, Jackie, was the one who had been taken hostage. We were also informed that Helen was in critical condition, and that she was also pregnant.

It was getting dark, and we were set to head out to the hospital to get updates on each person. We all knew this would probably be a 24/7 job for the three of us, at least for the first week, which is what turned out to happen.


I quickly learned what had happened on the morning of September 26, 1996.

A man named Jairus Chegero Godeka, originally from Kenya, had bought a Dianetics book from Helen a few years prior to the shooting. He somehow was under the impression that the book would make major improvements in his life, and would result in him acquiring $50,000. Since the book did not accomplish this for him, he then blamed Scientology for not helping him. For about two years leading up to the shooting, Helen had been in regular touch with Godeka, and tried to help him, to no avail. Godeka became increasingly agitated and started making threats not only to the Portland Celebrity Centre, but also to the San Francisco org. He even went so far as to put a fake bomb on a remote control truck and send it into San Francisco org. Not only was he on Scientology watch lists, but police as well. I believe he had once been detained after many weapons had been located in his Portland apartment. He was lost in the shuffle, was supposed to be deported, and both orgs lost track of where he was. The night before the shooting, the Portland Celebrity Centre’s DSA — the local Office of Special Affairs (OSA) representative — had sent a telex (no phones allowed) to OSA Western US asking for them to find out if Godeka was in Portland. OSA WUS assured the DSA that Godeka was certainly not in Portland and she need not concern herself with him.

The next morning is when the shooting occurred. It lasted a total of about 10 minutes. The lower floor of the org was empty except the receptionist, and the Sea Org member noted below.

The front reception area is on a floor of its own (the entrance level was about 20 by 30 feet), with a wide staircase leading down to the Div 6 area, which is where new persons coming into Scientology would go. To the right from the entrance are stairs leading up to the rest of the org. Godeka walked in and Helen was at the front desk on the phone. Godeka shot her in the shoulder (which paralyzed her), then while she lay on the floor under the desk, he poured gasoline around the desk and lit it. By this time, Carlos, who had been down the wide stairs, came running up, having heard a loud noise, not knowing it was a gunshot. He was immediately shot in the chest, and he fell back down the stairs. Godeka then turned to go up the stairs to the right. Steve, the ED, had heard the shots and ran down the hall and down the stairs right at Godeka, when Godeka shot him. Godeka continued up the stairs and apparently this would have been when he shot Jim, who was going down the hall towards another exit. Meanwhile, Jackie came out of her office, right in front of Godeka, and Godeka told her that he would be her hostage.


[Jairus Godeka, model prisoner]

All of the staff had cleared out of the building by this time through a back stairwell. Police were already outside. Jackie showed Godeka where there was a front fire stairwell that was closed off. There was no way for police to storm him in that stairwell. They went down the stairs, which led to the front of the building and police negotiators were there to talk to him. The entire time all Godeka kept repeating was “All I want is a court case”. The police talked him into surrendering his gun and coming out, where he was immediately arrested.

While that was going on, Helen managed to drag herself through the fire and get to a door immediately behind her desk. She knew she needed to get away from the fire before she passed out. She managed to drag herself far enough in to close the fire door.

Carlos, the Sea Org member, was in shock, but walked out the front door of the org and sat down. He was advised by police to move further down because Godeka was still inside. Carlos got up and moved. We found out later that the bullet barely missed his heart, by millimeters.

By the time we arrived all victims had been transported to the hospital and treated, and of course Godeka was already in custody.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by even more media, which we were able to sneak past because none of us had any uniforms on, and we were not recognized.

Upstairs we found Helen’s husband, Dan, and his brother in a waiting room area. The brother was laying on the floor in pain. He was an OT 8 who hurt his back and could not move. Dan was laughing at him and making fun of him for being a wimp. I introduced myself to both of them and let them know that I was an auditor from CC Int and I had been sent to take care of Helen (and Carlos). The ED, Steve, was an OT and I was not able to do sessions on him as I was not trained to do so. The Deputy ED, Jim, we determined did not need immediate care. So my main priorities were Carlos and Helen.

Dan told me that the doctor explained that the bullets Godeka used were hollow, which meant they bounced around in her body, which is why Helen was shot in the shoulder but the bullet bounced and lodged in her spine. He let me see the X-ray as well. The doctor told Dan it was very likely she was paralyzed. So far, they said, it appeared the baby was not affected (sadly, as it later turned out, the baby’s brain stopped developing when Helen was shot. The doctors did not know this until the baby was born. They advised Helen to take the baby home, and that she would only live a few days. The little girl survived two years before passing away.


Helen was still unconscious when we arrived. I went in to see her and started giving her unconscious person assists every hour, all night. Several times medical staff and nurses came in to check on her while I was doing the process, and I think they were trying to sneak a peek or watch, or listen. They were curious what Scientology was (but not for the reasons we thought).

Sunny J. was walking around the hospital loudly proclaiming, “I want the best doctors in the country here to care for her now!” It was so embarrassing to watch. She made no progress with her stomping around for a few days and finally called Dr. Megan Shields to see what to do. Dr. Shields explained to Jensen that most doctors consider themselves the best, so saying something like that goes nowhere. A better approach is to ask the doctors who would they use if it were their mother. She tried that. The neurosurgeon over Helen’s case said really there was nothing that could be done as it went through her spine, but he would bring all of her medical records to a conference that was going on the next week to see if there was anything that could be done. Sadly, nothing came of it.

It took at least 24 hours for Helen to come to, maybe even 36 hours. During that time, we had a room for the family (and me). The husband Dan was getting very stir-crazy and did not want to stick around. He told us that he felt compelled to get out on the street and start selling copies of Dianetics. He had spent a lot of time over the past few decades selling them on the street, and it was something he was comfortable with doing.

For some reason Sunny J was in the main waiting area, for the majority of the second day. She was likely staying in touch with the management orgs with regular updates. I came out of ICU one time and told her “she is awake!” I sat down next to Sunny to talk and work out our days plan. We also had to work out informing Helen that she was paralyzed. It was determined that I would be the one to tell her. Not five minutes into our conversation, we could hear on the TV, which was on the news channel, “live update report” saying Helen was awake. Sunny and I looked at each other, then around the room. How the hell did that get out? We decided no more hanging out in the main waiting room areas. Avoid media means AVOID media. We could get in so much trouble for that getting out. Good, bad or indifferent news. No matter. We were not to deal with media at all. I must say we got a little paranoid after that.

I went back in to talk with Helen. I introduced myself to her. She had an accent, which I later found out is Australian. She was the sweetest, most polite lady I had ever met. I explained she was in the hospital. She told me she remembered Godeka coming in and shooting her. She remembered the fire. She knew she had to move herself and she knew she was about to pass out. She was an amazing and tough lady. She told me how she pulled herself past the fire door and yelled until she saw a firemans face and then she passed out.

I explained to her that according to the X-rays that we had, the bullet had lodged in her spine. From what we could tell, she would be paralyzed. The next thing she said was “where are they going to put my desk?”

I smiled. It was not something we would concern ourselves with now. I assured her that the doctors believed her unborn child was not affected.

Carlos was a Sea Org member visiting from Flag in Florida. He had come out of surgery and we were advised that he was stable.

Part of the procedure for an auditor to be able to give sessions is that we have the files of the person available, and we have instructions from a Case Supervisor on which processes to run on the person. Because Carlos was from Flag, we had to get the files from there. Understand that all of Los Angeles Sea Org members were briefed on Portland and everything about it was top priority. I called to Flag and got the person over staff care and told her she had a staff member who had been shot. She sounded like she could not be more bored (or overwhelmed, maybe). I told her I needed her help to get him going on a program. It meant she would have to get his file and get someone at her end to write out the steps.

She told me to call back in two weeks. Are you kidding me? Your staff member almost died today. What the hell? She repeated two weeks and hung up on me.

I went back to Sunny J and told her what happened. We were both totally shocked. Sunny called Jenny DeVocht, who was at Flag as well and asked for her help. Jenny could not believe the lack of help and got us what we needed in about two hours. She also got his files sent to me in Portland, same day delivery (we put the files on the plane directly and they are picked up at the other end by another Sea Org member who was expecting them. We did this many times in the 3 months I was there with various files that we had to have rushed back and forth).

Between Chris Swanson and me, we did the auditing sessions on everyone we could find that had any involvement (anyone on services in the org at the time, which was only a couple of people, family of those affected, etc). The only one that we could not help was the person who was on the phone with Helen when Godeka came in. Hubbard has a policy that certain persons are deemed “Illegal”, which means they are not qualified to receive any auditing sessions because of being a risk. Some examples of Illegal are reporters, anyone in government offices, anyone with extensive psych history. For this reason, the person on the phone with Helen was someone we could not do anything for. We did nothing. We couldn’t.

And I can’t forget to mention the very brave Jackie, who was the hostage during negotiations. A sweet lady who had been on staff forever. She was actually married to Jim, the one who had been shot but didn’t know it at first. Jackie held herself very well for the time of the negotiations. Understandably, she was quite shook up afterwards. We helped her with some sessions as well. I remember that her staff contract was about to expire (after about a month into my time there) and she planned to leave. Sadly, Scientology does not like to let its members off the hook, no matter what. So sadly, she got handling after handling until she changed her mind and signed another 5 year contract. I was sad to see it upset her, and was not what she wanted, but this is the sad world of Scientology. She was shook up and wanted out.

The first two weeks were a whirlwind of people coming through the org. My only job was the well being of those that had been shot. But in that time, massive amounts of flowers came in (of course the flowers from COB outdid everyone else), the President CC Int came (Karen Hollander) and visited with all of the injured, Heber Jentzch came too, I think to address the media. I do remember one night when we were finally able to get some rest, Heber was in the DSA office telling stories and we couldn’t leave. He’s magnetic to listen to. A Flag world tour came through trying to sign people up for higher Bridge levels, of course.

Approximately two weeks after the shooting, things had died down, the reception area had been remodeled, and the org was ready to keep going, so all the Sea Org members left. I was informed that I would be taking over as the Case Supervisor for the org while Diane, the actual Case Supervisor, went to Flag for some correction and who knows what else. All in all, I ended up staying 3 months or so. After everyone was gone, it was pretty peaceful and quiet and I goofed off a lot. I did not have a heavy pressure Sea Org post to deal with out there.

Finally Diane came back and I could leave. I came back to CC Int with cheers of congratulations for all the positive media Scientology received while I was there (all the while being advised to avoid all media).

Little did I know I would be back to Portland within a few months because of a death at Delphi Oregon.

— Sunny Pereira

Thank you, Sunny.

Sunny’s report reminded us that some time ago, we got detailed reports in the Godeka case from an FBI release obtained by journalist Emma Best, which she shared with us. Sunny’s story prompted us to go back through those files to see how they might supplement her memories.

The best part of those documents was an interview that Portland police conducted with Godeka himself just hours after he was arrested. Police warned Godeka numerous times that he had a right to an attorney and didn’t have to say anything, but Godeka was apparently eager to talk about what he had just done. A Portland detective sergeant typed up his notes of his interview with the suspect, from which we take these highlights.

Godeka said he had been staying in a cheap downtown hotel since coming back to Portland from San Francisco on a Greyhound bus in order to “fight these people.”

“Godeka then asked us if we were familiar with the Star Trek TV series. I told him that I did not follow it closely, but that I had seen some of the shows. He asked me if I had ever seen the episodes where the Klingons take a person’s mind away. I told Godeka I was vaguely familiar with those episodes, at which time he said that this was the Church of Scientology. I asked if he meant that the Church of Scientology had taken his mind away or was in some way controlling his mind and he replied, ‘Exactly.'”

Godeka told the detective that “I didn’t want to shoot that woman.” He claimed that he’d really wanted to do was get publicity about Scientology. To explain what he meant, Godeka brought up the earlier, mid-1980s lawsuit by former Scientologist Julie Christofferson Titchbourne. (Titchbourne won a massive $39 million judgment against the church for its harmful “technology,” but Scientology rallied with a huge showing at the Portland courthouse, and a judge, feeling the heat, cancelled the award.)

“He advised that [Christofferson] had been unsuccessful in getting her message out to the general public through the media.”

The detective explained that the police wouldn’t be helping him get a message out.

“When I explained to Godeka that no one had been killed as a result of this incident, he appeared surprised.”

Godeka said he had been working up to doing the shooting for some time, losing his nerve on previous days. And he didn’t plan to shoot Helen at reception — he had wanted to take her hostage and “get his message out.”

He had begun his involvement in Scientology in Portland years before, “but he dropped out of the church briefly because his mind was saying something was wrong.”

Godeka began talking about an earlier incident that had happened in February of that year, and it specifically involved Helen, the receptionist he would end up shooting and paralyzing. In February, he had called her after drinking and demanded that Scientology pay him $50,000 for what it had put him through. He threatened to come and kill her if they didn’t pay, and he stayed on the line long enough for the police to find and arrest him, confiscating a Ruger .45 semiautomatic pistol. He served 30 days in jail for that event.

After being arrested, Godeka then believed $50,000 wasn’t enough for what Scientology had put him through, and now he wanted $3 million.

He didn’t contact the org to tell them this, but he assumed they knew about his increased demand because of their mind-reading abilities.

In San Francisco, he purchased another .45 semiautomatic pistol before returning to Portland.

For several days, he tried to go through with his plan, continuing to lose his nerve. But he was running out of money.

On the day of the incident, he rode a local bus with a duffel bag carrying “his gun, the gas can, two pairs of pants, a book, and some pills.”

He decided to give the Church of Scientology one more chance to give him the $3 million he was demanding — a demand he expected them to receive through mental telepathy.

He went to an ATM and took out $40, and saw that it left him with only $47.

It stunned and angered him — he had expected it to contain the $3 million he was asking for.

Still, he was unsure about what to do.

“He ultimately decided that he did not want to do this, [but] he thought back about everything he had experienced at the hands of the Church of Scientology and felt like he had no options other than to move forward.”

He filled up his gas can and made his way to the org. Godeka claimed that he only wanted to shoot men and take women as hostages. But after taking an initial shot at Helen at reception, he claimed that someone in Scientology began to control his actions.

After shooting the others, Godeka said he realized that things didn’t go the way he wanted them to.

“As he moved down the stairway, Godeka said he realized he had failed. He explained that he had shot people he did not intend to and that he had taken the wrong hostage. Godeka said that Helen should have been his hostage and he said that he felt sorry about shooting her, but not the men. He said that he wishes one of them would die.”

“I wanted those guys dead, but I also want a trial,” Godeka said, adding that a trial would help him get his message about Scientology out.

In March 1998, Godeka was found “guilty except for insanity” and was sentenced up to 120 years. He was such a model prisoner, however, that he was released from a state hospital in 2005 and moved to a group home and managed to complete a bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon. In 2015, he applied for even more leniency, and offered to go back to Kenya and never return to the US.

Speaking against additional freedoms for him was Helen Healy, still on staff at the Portland Org, who said to the state’s Psychiatric Security Review Board, “I don’t feel vindictive towards him. My concern is the well-being of my fellow citizens of this state. There’s no way of knowing what his voices will tell him next.”

The Oregonian reported that the board took 15 minutes to reject Godeka’s requests for any additional leniency.



Hey, we’re only 16 days away from this year’s HowdyCon in Chicago, June 21-23. As in past years, we’re looking forward to meeting readers of the Bunker, culminating in Saturday night’s main event.

The biggest difference this year is that our Saturday night event is separate from that evening’s dinner. Chee Chalker is setting up an inexpensive pizza dinner that you don’t need to pay for ahead of time, after which we’ll walk over to the theater where our event, hosted by Chicago Fire star Christian Stolte, will take place. Because it’s a separate event, we’re asking that you pay $10 each to get into the Saturday night event, which will help us recoup what the Bunker paid for the venue. (We have never made a penny on our HowdyCon meetups, we only try to break even.)

Please email your proprietor (tonyo94 AT gmail) in order to reserve your spot for Saturday night’s main event. Seating is limited, and we’re going to have some really interesting people on stage and they may make a few announcements that you don’t want to miss.



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,136 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,739 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 282 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 170 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,345 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,119 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,893 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,239 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,805 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,473 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,733 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,773 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,485 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,011 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,100 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,240 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,560 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,535 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 891 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,193 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,299 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,702 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,574 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,156 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,661 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,905 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,014 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 5, 2018 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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