CLEARWATER — As Robert Harris was strolling round Church of Scientology buildings on a Cult Metropolis Tour final month, he mentioned he determined to level his pocket laser on the church’s varied safety cameras as a technique to say: “Hello, I’m right here, right here’s my face, I see you.”
Ted Reinhard, who is just not a member of the church, launched the walking tour Feb. 2 as a way to demystify Scientology’s presence downtown. And Harris mentioned even a lifelong Clearwater resident like himself was curious to be taught extra.
However Harris’s laser allegedly ended up inflicting $2,091 in harm to 6 safety cameras on three Scientology buildings, in keeping with Clearwater police.
Harris, 76, was arrested at his dwelling on Monday and charged with one rely of felony prison mischief after admitting to the offenses that occurred on Feb. 26, in keeping with an arrest affidavit.
“I’m not going to struggle the actual fact I did it,” Harris mentioned on Tuesday after being launched on bond. “I’ll struggle the actual fact I used to be not purposefully making an attempt to harm the cameras.”
Harris mentioned police confirmed him surveillance pictures supplied by Scientology officers that had been peppered with black dots, allegedly a results of burn harm to the digicam lenses from the laser. In addition they supplied pictures of Harris pointing the laser on the cameras.
In line with the arrest affidavit, video surveillance additionally captured Harris getting right into a car, which was registered to him.
“They’ve obtained cameras throughout downtown,” Harris mentioned. “They watched me stroll and go right into a restaurant. They watched me go to my automobile, then they obtained the license plate and seemed up the license plate and directed the detective.”
Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw didn’t reply to a request for touch upon Harris’s arrest.
Harris’s laser brought on harm to cameras on Scientology’s data heart at 503 Cleveland Avenue, a church workplace constructing at 118 N Fort Harrison Ave. and the Flag Constructing at 215 S Fort Harrison Ave, in keeping with the arrest affidavit.
Pressure has been constructing round Cult Metropolis Excursions since Reinhard launched the enterprise. In a earlier assertion, Shaw referred to as the tour “bigoted propaganda.”
As a part of the tour, Reinhard has challenged attendees to rely the varied surveillance cameras “as we smiled, waved, poked at, and took footage of the cult’s cameras,” in keeping with a Feb. 25 publish on the tour’s web site.
He leads his teams in a pretend Navy jacket and hat, a play on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s exaggerated army report.
Since late February, Reinhard has additionally written now-deleted on-line feedback about three companies that falsely accused them of favoring Scientologists after these companies didn’t embrace his tour.
Throughout a dialogue on Thursday, the City Council described Cult City Tours as damaging to downtown revitalization efforts. All 5 council members mentioned the title sends the improper message to the general public as the town tries to indicate there may be extra to downtown than Scientology.
Solely council member Mark Bunker mentioned the excursions could possibly be a constructive technique to ease individuals’s fears in regards to the church if Reinhard would cease mocking Scientology.
Reinhard didn’t reply to an e-mail or voice message requesting touch upon Harris’s arrest.
Harris mentioned he was stunned to see “some very good officers” arrive at his door on Monday. He was unaware there was an investigation about his actions from a month earlier.
He mentioned he often carries a laser in his pocket to level at issues, particularly the night time sky. However he mentioned he by no means meant to break Scientology’s buildings and now needs there have been a neater technique to resolve his felony cost.
““I’d be completely satisfied to pay for the damages and write a letter of apology,” Harris mentioned. “They’ve obtained massive pockets and I don’t have massive pockets. The little pockets I’ve obtained, I don’t need them to take simply to make a degree about Cult Metropolis Excursions.”