PORT ANGELES — A 71-year-old Port Angeles man charged with committing a hate crime will undergo a mental health evaluation.
Kenneth Burr Schilling, 71, allegedly harassed Jehovah’s Witnesses over their religion and damaged a cart of religious literature May 28 at the Laurel Street fountain in downtown Port Angeles.
Schilling was arrested shortly after 11 a.m. May 28 and booked into the jail for investigation of malicious harassment.
He was charged with malicious harassment last Friday while ranting and screaming at a Clallam County Superior Court hearing.
The courtroom hearing, conducted by video with Schilling in county jail, showed Schilling flailing his arms, growling and yelling “I’m a spirit,” “you’ll be damned,” and “you’re in the fires of hell right now, have fun.” For much of the time, the volume was turned to mute.
The charge applies to a person who allegedly causes physical injury to someone because of the person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or mental, physical or sensory handicap.
Malicious harassment is renamed as a hate crime offense in HB 1732, passed by the state Legislature earlier this year.
It was signed into law May 7 and goes into effect July 28 “recognizing the motivation behind the conduct,” Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols said Wednesday at Schilling’s first court appearance.
Schilling is a longtime Port Angeles resident whose address was listed on a Port Angeles police report as transient and on court documents as Wabash Street.
Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson ordered a 24-hour mental health review for Schilling at his first court appearance Wednesday and had him held without bond.
Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols said at the hearing that he had planned to ask for $50,000 bail based on Schilling’s criminal history and failure-to-appear record but indicated he had second thoughts because of Schilling’s behavior.
Schilling screamed unintelligibly and waved his arms during the hearing, making religious statements and declaring, “you’re damned.”
“Mr. Schilling’s behavior today indicates he has some ongoing mental health issues,” Erickson said at the hearing.
Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender said that twice in the last seven months, Schilling had had cases dismissed after he was assessed by Western State Hospital as being mentally incompetent.
According to the probable cause statement for the current charge, the confrontation leading to Schilling’s arrest occurred at about 10:30 a.m. May 28.
A 72-year-old woman and 75-year-old man, both of Port Angeles, were passing out Jehovah’s Witnesses brochures and handouts from a cart and talking the passersby about their religion.
Schilling, who had been confronting them for a week, yelled at them before pushing the cart over and breaking it, according to the statement.
The cart is valued at about $200, Deputy Chief Jason Viada said last week.
When the man and woman left the area, Schilling followed them, “screaming profanity,” the man said.
After Schilling’s arrest, Officer Luke Brown asked Schilling why he knocked over the cart, Brown said in his report.
“Based on what Schilling was telling me, it appeared that he had targeted [the couple] because they were representing the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church.”
Steven Koch, cart program overseer for the west Port Angeles congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said in a written statement that Schilling had threatened two congregation members “with hate language and threatening to overturn the cart” on May 22 and May 25.
“In his speech, he mentioned the word death several times,” Koch said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].