PORT ANGELES — A 43-year-old Oregon man has been charged with an alleged knife attack outside a Port Angeles church.
Casey Strege of Eugene, Ore., was charged in Clallam County Superior Court on Wednesday with two counts of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and one count of second-degree burglary for the alleged attack at Independent Bible Church on Sunday.
Off-duty Port Angeles police officer Mike Johnson was attending the 11 a.m. service with his family when he heard a commotion from the back of the church and helped two security officers detain a belligerent Strege outside the entrance until on-duty police arrived, he said.
One of the guards was cut on the left index finger during the assault but no one was seriously injured, police said.
Johnson said he was carrying his duty weapon at the time of the incident but never drew the firearm from its holster.
“It occurred the best way it could in that none of the security officers were stabbed, the suspect was not shot and no one had a serious or life-threatening injury,” Johnson said in a Wednesday interview.
“Knives at close quarters, they’re terrifying,” Johnson added. “They are extremely deadly and lethal.”
Superior Court Judge Simon Barnhart scheduled Strege’s arraignment for Nov. 13.
Strege, who said his real name is “C Blu,” was being held Thursday in the Clallam County jail on $10,000 bail.
“I am innocent of all of these charges, just to let you know, and I’m looking forward to my day in court to prove the same thing,” Strege told Barnhart during a brief court appearance Wednesday.
“I was assaulted violently and physically, and I’ve been in pain. I have not received sufficient medical attention. I’ve been denied adequate food per my religious mandates, so I’m depleting and getting more lethargic as I’m in here.”
Johnson said Strege is known by law enforcement to have been camping illegally in Olympic National Park since about March.
“He is a vocal, avowed communist,” Johnson said in a telephone interview.
“Patrol has had several issues recently where he has specifically gone into churches and places of worship for the purpose of disrupting church services.”
Strege allegedly entered Independent Bible Church without registering in violation of COVID-19 restrictions and yelled for the pastor who was leading the service.
The two guards escorted Strege out of the building, where he allegedly drew a knife.
Johnson said he phoned dispatch to summon on-duty officers before helping the church employees subdue Strege.
“Fearing that Strege was going to get himself into a position where he was able to stab one of the members of the IBC security team, I quickly delivered four closed-fist strikes to Strege’s ribs before grabbing Strege in a hair hold and pinning his body against the ground,” said Johnson, who was born without a lower left arm, in a supplemental arrest report.
“I wrapped my legs around Strege’s legs in a ‘grape vine’ style wrestling technique and told him to stop fighting.”
Strege also was alleged to have trespassed at New Life Open Bible Church in Port Angeles on Sept. 6.
Officer Luke Brown said Strege accused the pastor of assaulting him when the pastor touched his shoulder and asked him to leave the building, court papers said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.