The actors were donning their costumes, transforming into angels and wise men, and the first ticket holders were waiting to file into the cavernous, glass-walled sanctuary when...
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. The actors were donning their costumes, transforming into angels and wise men, and the first ticket holders were waiting to file into the cavernous, glass-walled sanctuary when the shots rang out.
They marked the start of what turned into a nine-hour standoff at the landmark Crystal Cathedral, home to the Rev. Robert Schuller and his internationally televised “Hour of Power.” The standoff ended early yesterday when Schuller’s longtime orchestra conductor took his life in a church office. No one else was hurt.
Schuller said Johnnie Carl, 57, had grappled with manic-depression for years before the incident, which began less than two hours before a crowd of 2,000 was to attend a performance of the cathedral’s annual Christmas pageant.
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“A disease killed him,” Schuller said of Carl’s fight with mental illness. “Just like a cancer, it can come back when no one expects it.”
Carl was among the most prominent arrangers and composers of sacred music. His most recent CD with his best friend, pianist Roger Williams, went platinum, and he received a gold record as an arranger/orchestrator on John Tesh’s “Live From Red Rocks.” Carl’s music has been performed by Celine Dion, the London Symphony and Michael Crawford.
He had written more than 3,500 arrangements, including 200 for hymns. He wrote for many other types of performances.
“This guy was just brilliant, and he’d write the most beautiful music,” Williams said.
Police said the incident began after Carl apparently quarreled with a staffer. Other employees and cast members then heard about four shots from his office in the basement of the church. When they went to his office, they saw Carl waving a gun. He ordered them to leave.
SWAT members evacuated visitors and employees, some of whom were hiding. The evening’s performances were canceled.
A counseling team attempted to negotiate with Carl, who had locked himself in his office and was despondent, threatening to kill himself.
Shortly after 1 a.m., officers decided to break open the door. Carl grabbed his gun and retreated behind the locked steel door of an adjacent storage room. A shot was heard, and officers found Carl dead.
Schuller individually counseled staff members yesterday. Spokesman Michael Nason said the church does not intend to increase security.
“This is a church,” he said. “Even though it’s a high-profile church, people need to feel free when they come here.”