GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – A standoff between police and an orchestra's conductor who opened fire with a handgun at the world-famous Crystal Cathedral (search) ended early Friday with the man shooting and killing himself, police said.
No one was hurt when Johnnie Carl, 57, initially opened fire Thursday, and children in a day-care center were rushed to safety. Carl, a 29-year veteran of the church, remained inside the complex for several hours, and shot himself as officers tried to talk to him as he was holed up in a bathroom.
"There was a dialogue, and then the officers heard the gunshot," Garden Grove police Lt. Paul Prince told The Associated Press.
Officers immediately forced down a steel door separating them from Carl, and found him dead, Prince said.
Police had been attempting for several hours to get in touch with Carl when he killed himself just before 2 a.m., Prince said. He had first gone alone to an office, and later moved to the bathroom where he shot himself.
Police said Carl had threatened to harm himself throughout the standoff.
The incident began shortly before 5 p.m., less than two hours before the cathedral's annual "Glory of Christmas" holiday show was to begin. Police said Carl fired about four shots from a handgun, but it wasn't clear if he was trying to hit anybody.
Children who had been in a cathedral day-cay center waiting for their parents were safely removed.
The cathedral, a huge, sprawling structure not far from Disneyland and baseball's Angels Stadium, is home to the Rev. Robert Schuller's international Crystal Cathedral Ministries (search) and claims a congregation of more than 10,000 members. The internationally televised "Hour of Power" is broadcast from there.
Schuller, who was at home when the shooting occurred, came to the command post police set up near the cathedral and taped a personal message for Carl, with whom he is acquainted.
Police did not have the chance to play the message from Shuller or another message from Carl's wife, but they did play him a message from a friend who had successfully intervened in past cases where the man had become despondent, Prince said.
Schuller spokesman Michael Nason said the initial shots apparently were fired on the cathedral's concourse level, which is located below the main auditorium and is the staging area for the choir.
Some 100 cast members were preparing for the first of two Glory of Christmas programs scheduled for Tuesday night when gunfire rang out. Both shows were canceled.
The Glory of Christmas began with the goal of becoming a Southern California holiday tradition. Today it draws visitors from around the world to a show that includes Christmas carols and a production featuring live animals and such special effects as flying angels. Prerecorded orchestration by the London Symphony Orchestra provides the musical backdrop for live performances by adult and child soloists. The cathedral's world-renowned pipe organ also fills the structure with holiday sounds.
Schuller, the cathedral's longtime leader, arrived in Garden Grove in 1955, founding a local Reformed Church in America congregation. He gained international fame almost immediately when he rented the Orange Drive-in theater and began conducting Sunday services from the roof of the snack bar.
As his congregation grew rapidly, he launched plans to build the cathedral, which quickly became an architectural icon.
His son Robert Anthony Schuller is also an ordained minister and preaches at the cathedral. Schuller has designated him as his successor.