Prosecutors believe Neosho gunman targeted Micronesian church leaders

Monday, August 13, 2007

NEOSHO, Mo. (AP) -- Prosecutors believe a gunman deliberately targeted the leaders of a Micronesian congregation in a church shooting Sunday that killed three people.

Newton County prosecutor Scott Watson said Monday the investigation so far suggests that the gunman deliberately targeted elders of the congregation from a local community of Pacific Islanders.

Watson said he expects to file multiple charges later Monday, including three counts of first- degree murder. The alleged gunman has not been named yet pending those formal charges. The man is a Pacific Islander in his 40s and was being held in the Newton County jail.

Watson said he had not seen any information from the investigation to suggest any of the shooting victims were relatives or friends of the gunman.

"I think that you'll find that the victims were what some would term elders or leaders (of the Micronesian congregation)," Watson told The Associated Press. "As information continues to come forward, it appears that the shots that were fired were not random."

Police have only named one of the dead so far, Kernal Rehobson, 44, of Goodman, who was the pastor of the congregation. The group was renting space in the First Congregational Church. The church remained cordoned off Monday and phone calls to the church went unanswered.

Police and prosecutors say there are perhaps a couple hundred Micronesian residents in Neosho who came here over the past decades to work in the local poultry industry.

There are similar Pacific Islander communities in neighboring Northwest Arkansas.

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