Nuns left 'very distraught' as gunman opens fire at Calif. Christian center
NBC News and news services
updated 12:24 a.m. MT, Wed., April 8, 2009
TEMECULA, Calif. - A gunman opened fire at a remote Korean Christian retreat center Tuesday night, leaving one person dead and at least three people injured, authorities said.
Authorities were first called to the rural area about 7 p.m. after receiving reports about a man shooting his wife, California Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez said.
But investigators were still trying to learn the circumstances of the shootings, and were hindered by a language barrier in trying to sort out the facts, Riverside County Sheriff's spokesman Dennis Gutierrez said.
"We have some nuns that are very distraught," he said.
NBC News reported that the suspected shooter was believed to be aged in his 70s. The identity of the dead victim were being withheld until relatives were notified.
At least two of the victims were critically injured. The gunman was also believed to be among the wounded at the Kkottongnae Retreat Camp, located at an RV camp in Temecula about 85 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
A nursing supervisor at the Inland Valley Regional Medical Center near the retreat said she had no information on any of the victims.
Officers began interviewing people at what appeared to be a triage center for injured victims, Gutierrez said, but most of them spoke Korean.
"That language barrier, that's the key to figuring out what happened," Gutierrez said.
The retreat is one of four U.S. branches of the Kkottongnae Brothers and Sisters of Jesus, a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to serving the poor and homeless. It was founded in the city of Cheongju, South Korea, by Father Oh Woong Jin in 1976.
The campground, previously used as a summer camp before the group bought it, was marked by a single white sign in English and Korean on the side of a rural winding road in remote southeast Riverside County. The retreat was a mile up a narrow road into the hills.
Kkottongnae means "flower village," according to the organization's Web site.
A woman who answered the phone at the group's Lynwood branch on Tuesday night said she did not speak English well and declined to discuss the shooting.
Deputies had evacuated the campground and blocked off access. Nothing could be seen from the main road.
Several women from the retreat sat wrapped in blankets outside the law enforcement lines.
"This is the last place this is supposed to happen," Gutierrez said. "A lot of people are shaken up."
Chang Kim of Los Angeles stood at the scene, saying his 88-year-old mother lives up the road that was blocked off. Kim said he was concerned because he could not reach her.
"My mother lives up there," he said. "I can't go there. I can't get in. I'm stuck."