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Saturday, December 03, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Paintball spree was anti-occult, says pastor


Controversial Christian evangelist and pro-gun campaigner Peter Hammond confirmed he has been charged with assault after what he said was an anti-Hallowe'en spree with a paintball gun.

Hammond, director of the Cape Town-based Frontline Fellowship, an organisation dedicated to "missionary outreach", said he would appear in the Goodwood Magistrate's Court on December 20.

He said last night that he had not touched the gun that day, and that it was accidentally discharged by his 10-year-old son.

"It was not intentional and not malicious," said Hammond, who is a vociferous opponent of South Africa's gun control laws.

He said his family - a wife and four children - did not approve of Hallowe'en, which they saw as an "occult holiday celebrating human sacrifice, witches and goblins".

His children had wanted to do a "counter Hallowe'en", and he had agreed to drive two of them around to "do paintballing" on trick or treating youngsters on October 31.

"It was meant to be a joke: nobody was meant to get hurt," he said.

"I laid down a few ground rules: we were just going for teenagers, no kids."

He said his 10-year-old son had initially paintballed youngsters who appeared to have just strewn rubbish across the road as a Halloween prank, shooting low and from a distance, and then called out to another child, asking whether he was a trick- or-treater.

The boy came over to the car, saw the paintball gun, swore at Hammond's son and tried to pull it out of his hands. The gun went off, and Hammond drove away.

His 12-year-old daughter, in the rear of the car, looked back and saw that the boy was rubbing his jaw.

"With hindsight it would have been better to go back, but he didn't look in great pain that I could see," Hammond said.

He said that some days later he was "mortified" to learn from an article in a community newspaper that police were searching for the paintball shooter, and tried first to phone the parents of the boy shot on the jaw, then phoned the police investigating officer.

"Somehow or other this accident is being interpreted as a malicious adult going around shooting people.

"Categorically, I can say I never handled a paintball or shot anyone that night. It was a case of a small boy (his son) panicking. I take full responsibility for a bad judgment call. I've apologised to everyone I can. We want to meet the parents and apologise, but so far they've not been willing to meet with us.

"We feel terrible that anyone got hurt, but it really was an accident."

Many fundamentalist Christians believe Hallowe'en, with its pagan origins, is a celebration of the "powers of darkness".

Some describe it as "an evil day of Satan", and say participation sends a message to children that witchcraft, demonism, Satanism, and the occult are fun, entertaining and harmless.

They also believe even normally well-behaved children are driven by "unseen forces" to destructive behaviour and vandalism at Hallowe'en.

Hammond is described on the Fellowship website as a missionary who has pioneered evangelistic outreaches in war zones of Mozambique, Angola and Sudan.

He has also been accused of gun- running for rebels in Sudan, and of assisting the Renamo movement when it was fighting a South African-backed civil war against Mozambique's Frelimo government in the apartheid years.

Hammond is known for his opposition to homosexuality, pornography, communism, militant Islam, and to what he says is "humanism" in state schools.