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More legal trouble for local church pastor

Reverend is arrested for trying to buy a rifle and failing to appear in a Beaverton court on a criminal mischief charge

by:  - Rev. Ronnie McCulloch

News Editor
   July 9, 2003 — A local church pastor arrested in May for allegedly threatening an Alcoholics Anonymous group with both an ax and a shotgun is back in jail facing charges for trying to buy a gun.
   The Rev. Ronnie McCulloch, 53, was arrested on two outstanding warrants Sunday at his permanent home in Lake Oswego.
   On July 1, the Jefferson County District Attorney's office received information that McCulloch was trying to purchase a rifle from a gun store in Tigard — five days after Circuit Court Judge Daniel Ahern told McCulloch he could remain out of jail as long as he didn't possess alcohol or firearms.
   When McCulloch was apprehended by Lake Oswego Police Sunday, he also had a warrant for his arrest from Beaverton Municipal Court for failing to appear on June 30 to face a second-degree criminal mischief charge.
   On June 13, Beaverton police cited McCulloch for the class A misdemeanor charge and released him the same day. He allegedly yelled at a woman in a parking lot and then damaged her vehicle by punching it several times, said Mark Hyde, a public information officer with the Beaverton Police Department.
   On Monday, McCulloch was being held at the Washington County Jail pending transport to Jefferson County. He appeared in Beaverton Municipal Court Monday for a pretrial hearing, where he is due back on Aug. 22 for formal arraignment on the criminal mischief charge.
   McCulloch, pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepard the past two years, located at 395 S.E. C St., was placed on paid leave for two months following his May 30 arrest in Madras.
   During that incident, police arrested McCulloch at gunpoint after they arrived at the church and allegedly found him wielding an ax and a 12-guage Mossberg shotgun at five members of an Alcoholics Anonymous group trying to leave the property.
   According to police and witness accounts, McCulloch appeared intoxicated when he angrily approached the AA members with the ax, shifting it back and forth between his hands while yelling at them to hand over their keys to the church.
   As the AA members began leaving, McCulloch then grabbed the shotgun from a location most likely in the church, according to police reports, and began wielding it and the ax at the same time.
   Madras police booked McCulloch, an ex-marine, on one count of disorderly conduct and five counts of menacing, all misdemeanors.
   After spending one night in a jail detoxification holding cell, he was bailed out by a church member, who posted $1,350, or 10 percent, of his $13,500 bond.
   On June 26, Judge Ahern converted McCulloch's security release to a conditional release under the conditions that he not possess alcohol or firearms.
   Formal charges had not been filed against McCulloch until Friday, when the district attorney's office moved to revoke his release agreement and charge him with one count of unlawful use of a weapon, a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
   District Attorney Peter Deuel said prosecutors had intended to go straight to grand jury for a formal indictment, but issuing his arrest warrant required an accompanying charge.
   "The ultimate charges will be determined subsequent to the grand jury's review of the matter," Deuel said. "But we felt that the responsible thing to do was to file a charge and ask the court to revoke his status."
   Bail on the new felony charge has been set at $75,000.
   McCulloch has hired David Glenn as his local attorney. Glenn declined to comment on the case.
   Tammy Cox, a secretary for the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepard, said church leaders will hold a meeting July 20 to determine whether to keep McCulloch on paid leave.
   McCulloch has been with the church for more than two years, at first in an interim capacity. He was installed permanently as the Lutheran Church's half-time pastor on Jan. 19.
   Before his arrest, McCulloch lived in the church parsonage four days a week — Saturday through Wednesday — returning home to his wife and two sons in Lake Oswego during the remainder.
   McCulloch has bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology. He has experience in several areas of counseling and management of support groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous.
   He has been a pastor for 15 years.