Sheriff's deputies were heavily armed as they arrived to arrest the 79-year-old San Carlos minister who sent handwritten threats to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, just a few blocks away from his home over a 12-day period, most recently on Thursday.
We stopped Rev. Michaelson as he was backing his SUV from the garage. "Did you do that?" we asked.
"Yeah. It was personal.," Michaelson said.
Detective Rosemerry Blankswade of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said Rev. Michaelson was identified delivering the threats to the church in security footage.
Rev. Michaelson said he was upset at the current pastor at Holy Trinity.
"He wasn't supportive of us when my wife had cancer, was going through it, going through that period of time," he said.
His wife of 47 years, Marilyn, died about two years ago. They lived in San Carlos for decades.
While Rev. Michaelson was unequivocal about sending the threatening letters, he seemed to have lapses in memory during follow-up questions.
"Did I make threats? Yeah," Michaelson said.
"And what were those threats you were claiming you would do?" we asked him.
That was followed by long pauses in which he seemed unable to remember details. We asked again, "Do you remember what threats you made in those letters?"
He then answered, "no."
Given the nature of his arrest, neighbors didn't want to do interviews about Michaelson. This is a man now facing possible felony charges of making terrorist threats and violating civil rights by threat of force.
Neighbors wondered if he has a medical issue.
"I heard you had a fall off a ladder a couple years ago," ABC7 News' David Louie asked Michaelson. "Has that caused any confusion or thinking process problems?"
"It might," he responded. "We're just, we're just in the process now of checking that out."
The regional bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Lutheran Church issued a statement about the threats. "We are shocked and saddened to learn of the arrest of... Rev. Paul Michaelson," wrote Bishop Mark Holmerud. "We are at a loss to understand why anyone would attempt to disrupt the ministry of a congregation whose intent is to be a haven of peace, inclusivity and reconciliation in the community."
Rev. Michaelson is due in court next month.
Pastor Paul Michaelson tells me why he delivered a series of threats to hurt members of his former #SanCarlos church this Sunday. A troubling interview only on 7 at 6:03pm @abc7newsbayarea #abc7now pic.twitter.com/GTrkI1Z2ef— David Louie (@abc7david) January 18, 2020