The Virginia and Norfolk area directors of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church were arrested in Norfolk Monday on charges of shooting at the car of two former church members.
Scott Powell, 28, Virginia director, and Mark Boitano, 26, Norfolk director, were charged with shooting into an occupied auto and unauthorized use of an auto.
The incident began when two former members of the sect, Robert Straw, 19, and Brett Blaze, 20, both of Pasadena, Calif., returned to their former Unification Church homes to retrieve belongins left behind when tehy left the church recently. They were accompanied by four members of the West Virginia chapter of the International Foundation for Individual Freedom, an educational and counseling group that aids persons who want to leave religious cults.
The six men first went to a Richmond church group home where, police said, they recovered Straw's belongings as resident Moonies watched. Then the group went to the home of Virginia director Powell in Norfolk, where Blaze had lived, intending to retrieve clothes and a van belonging to Blaze, according to police.
Powell, who was working in Richmond Monday, and a carload of followers pursued the group, arriving at Powell's Norfolk home as the ex-Moonies were leaving.
The two groups exchanged words over the custody of Blaze's van. Powell ordered Boitano to shoot at the car occupied by the ex-Moonies, according to police, who said six rifle shots were fired and three hit the vehicle. One bullet pierced a front tire on the car belonging to Foundation for Individual Freedom member Rodney Connor. Another bullet pierced a passengerside door.
The shooting incident comes at a time when anti-cult groups in the Norfolk area have expressed concern about possible violaence from cult-members.
"This is something we've been expecting," said Jan Coradi, president of the Citizens Organized for public Awareness of Cults.
Betty Lancaster, of the Richmond Unification Church group home, called the entire incident "outrageous." She said the six men were "criminals" who took items from the homes other than their own, including a film on anti-communism featuring Ronald Reagan. "The church does not condone" the incident, she said, but added that Powell was trying to flatten the tires so the "criminals could not get away."