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Dominican cops jail German leader of doomsday sect

Source : AP
Last Updated: Fri, Oct 19, 2012 00:46 hrs

A judge ordered a yearlong detention Thursday for the German leader of a doomsday sect that believes in aliens while Dominican authorities investigate why he had a gun arsenal at his house that police discovered after a deadly, hour-long shootout.

Police arrested Peter Brunck, 61, of Meisenheim, Germany, and an unidentified German woman after killing another German man with ties to the sect in a shooting that injured three officers Wednesday.

The gunbattle occurred at Brunck's house in an upscale residential community in the popular tourist town of Sosua. Police said Brunck apparently is leader of the "Academy for Future Health" sect, going by the title "cosmic teacher" and promising mental salvation and treatment for various illnesses.

Police said they discovered several rifles, grenades and professional crossbows with scopes along with seven bulletproof vests, a bulletproof car and an ambulance inside Brunck's house.

A video shot by police Wednesday shows officers touring the house and seizing weapons, including an automatic rifle leaning against a wall behind a dream catcher.

In another shot, the unidentified German woman wearing a bulletproof vest began to cry as police handcuffed her.

"What's going on here? ...What's wrong with him?" she asked as she nodded toward the slain suspect, who was wearing a bulletproof vest and was slumped on the floor next to a rifle. Police identified him as Peter Demetrick and said they suspected he was one of Brunck's followers.

Authorities said the woman, whose identity has not been released is accused of shooting at police but has not been charged.

The shooting began when police sought to serve a search warrant at the home after neighbors complained repeatedly of hearing shots at Brunck's house, which features a pool and an indoor shooting range.

General Prosecutor Francisco Dominguez said police are still investigating why Brunck had such an arsenal and whether the weapons were tied to the sect in any way.

Police also raided nearby homes inhabited mostly by German natives, police spokesman Diego Pesqueira told The Associated Press. It was unclear whether any other items were seized.

Officials with the Ministry of the Interior and Police, the agency responsible for issuing weapon permits, said they did not know Brunck had a shooting range.

Police said Brunck has lived in Sosua since 2006.

According to the sect's website, he traveled frequently to western Europe to give dozens of seminars, charging up to $650 per person for certain presentations. Brunck warned followers about the end of the world and talked about the possibility of a "galactic super electromagnetic wave" that could destroy all communication on Earth, as well as a potential shift in polarity that could bring a new ice age in Europe or result in sea levels rising by nearly 200 feet (60 meters).

Brunck also has said he believes there are 68 varieties of aliens, and he espoused certain therapies he believed could cure ailments ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis.

Stefan Barthel, an official with Berlin's state-run office that tracks cults, told the newspaper Bild that the sect used Germany as a "missionary area" to recruit followers to come to the Dominican Republic.

Officials in Germany and the Dominican Republic who are associated with the sect did not return calls for comment.

A German man who answered a phone listed for the sect's office in Miami said he could not provide any comment on what happened.

"It's too fresh," said the man, who declined to identify himself but said he once served on the sect's board of directors but stepped down five years ago.

It is unclear how many followers Brunck has, and the sect isn't well known, said Friedrich Griess, former president of the European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Sectarianism.

"We have many hundreds of groups," he said in a phone interview from Austria.

According to 20 Minuten Online, a Swiss news site, Brunck has 48 followers, including eight children. It did not provide a source.

Dominican police said Brunck's former personal attorney, Wilson Garcia, was fatally shot in 2006 in the Dominican Republic in circumstances that are still unclear. A few months later, unidentified gunmen opened fire on Brunck, shooting him in the arm, but it was unclear what prompted that attack, police said.

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Associated Press writer Ezequiel Abiu Lopez reported this story in Santo Domingo and Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.



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