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Four shot at religious retreat near Temecula

April 7, 2009 | 11:45 pm

Four people were shot and at least two hospitalized Tuesday night at a Korean retreat in the hills east of Temecula, and investigators were continuing to search the area for possible additional victims.

Details of the incident were sketchy, but a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said investigators believe a suspected gunman may be among the injured.

Deputies, police and emergency rescue vehicles poured into the rural, mountainous area along California 79 after a report of an assault with a deadly weapon was received at 7:23 p.m., said Deputy Herlinda Valenzuela.

Initial reports were that there were several victims, she said. Two people with gunshot wounds were found initially and transported to the hospital. 

As investigators searched the dark, sprawling retreat later, two more victims -- in critical condition -- were discovered, Valenzuela said. Sheriff's Department spokesman Dennis Gutierrez said investigators did not think any gunmen were at large. They were continuing to interview witnesses.

“Because of the language barrier, we don’t know who the shooter is yet. But we feel there is no one out in the community who is armed,” Gutierrez said.

Their condition was not immediately available. There were conflicting reports about whether one of the victims had died. A Sheriff's Department spokesman at the scene told reporters there was one fatality. But other officials said they could not confirm that.

The Kkottongnae Retreat Camp, run by the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus, is in the 38700 block of Highway 79. Kkottongae means “flower village” in Korean and is a Christian social service organization founded in Korea. It offers help to orphans and the homeless and expanded to Los Angeles County in the late 1990s. It has branches in Lynwood, the Temecula area, Atlanta and New Jersey, according to its website.

Its mission, the website says, is to provide the "homeless and the abandoned with care and love in the hope that they will realize the love of God and find peace as the children of God."

-- Rich Connell