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San Carlos Church Steps Up Security At 1st Service Since Violent Threats By Pastor

SAN CARLOS (KPIX 5) -- The San Carlos church at the center of violent threats held its first Sunday service since details of the case came to light.

A San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy parked in front of the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 149 Manzanita Avenue for the duration of the sermon, on the day that investigators say Pastor Paul Michaelson threatened to bring a gun to the church and shoot its members.

"It's been a very shocking and sad time this past week. Getting letters like this is very upsetting," said James Reimann, a congregation member.

According to the sheriff's office, Michaelson penned and delivered four letters between Jan. 7-16. Investigators did not provide details but said Michaelson had a personal disagreement with his former church members. Neighbors indicated the death of Michaelson's wife several years ago left him distraught.

Paul Michaelson
Paul Michaelson, a pastor at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Mateo. (San Mateo County Sheriff's Office)

Michaelson, 79, an outreach and visitation pastor for Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Mateo, was captured on surveillance camera hand delivering the letters at Holy Trinity, according to investigators.

On Thursday, heavily armed deputies arrested Michaelson at his home just a few blocks away. Deputies searched the house, but did not find any firearms. No one answered a knock at his door on Sunday.

Church members had been fearful when it was unknown who was making the threats.

"To have someone identified, which is a relief, and then someone we know, again is kind of shocking and hurtful. It's been a bit of a roller coaster this week," said Reimann.

Michaelson was booked on Thursday into the Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City, and faces charges of making terrorist threats and violating civil rights by threat of force. The sheriff's office also served a gun protection order prohibiting him from buying a firearm in the future.

Bishop Mark Holmerud, of the Sierra Pacific Synod, released a statement to Mercury News: "Understanding that an arrest is not a conviction, we are at a loss to understand why anyone would attempt to disrupt the ministry of a congregation whose intent is to be a haven of peace, inclusivity and reconciliation in the community."

"We're still working through what it means to heal and what the process will be. We plan to be together in community as we're gathering this morning. To be there for each other, to ask for help when we need help," said Lori Friedman, another congregation member.

Reimann said he would pray "for us as a community to support each other and wherever we are at the moment, that's OK. We just move forward and hope we get to a better place."

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