07/09/2015 10:21 EDT | Updated 07/09/2016 05:59 EDT

Jeffrey Chung-Ping Chen Accused Of Carrying Swastika, Knife Into Vancouver Church

Holy Resurrection Church
A Richmond, B.C., man who was previously the subject of a national security investigation has been charged with entering a Russian Orthodox Church with a swastika armband and a large knife.

Vancouver police say their hate crime unit is reviewing a June 28 incident at Holy Resurrection church which resulted in a charge against Jeffrey Chung-Ping Chen of carrying a weapon while attending a public meeting.

Police have requested a psychological assessment for the 38-year-old, who was subject to a weapons prohibition in 2005 after the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team seized guns and daggers from his home.

According to a news report at the time, a controversial imam contacted the RCMP after receiving a series of alarming emails. 

Chen says the latest incident is a misunderstanding, which arose out of his purchase of a bayonet and a swastika. 

"I was hoping that somebody in the church could identify the knife," he said. 

"It was harmless really. I didn't know who called the police. It was a surprise."

Mental health concerns

The case raises questions about issues of mental health, weapons and alerting authorities.

A member of the church parish council, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said Chen had been attending services on and off for more than a decade.

He said the church leadership were aware of his past history and had put into place a plan which resulted in a call to police when a parishioner spotted the sheathed knife, an empty gun holster and a swastika.

"As Christians we don't want to close the door on anybody that's struggling," the church member said.

"But there's a big concern about people's safety. Bad things have happened in people's places of worship."

Plainclothes officers attended the church and arrested Chen on the street after the service.

According to court records, Chen also uses the alias Muhammed Saiful Islam.

He was last subject to a three-year weapons prohibition in 2010 and was previously barred from possessing weapons for three years in 2005.

'The police still have a file on me'

That investigation allegedly began with a tip from Sheik Younus Kathrada, a Vancouver Muslim cleric who was himself the subject of an investigation by the national anti-terror squad.

They were looking into comments Kathrada allegedly made in an audio recording calling Jews "brothers of monkeys and swine."

Kathrada, who now teaches in Malaysia, denied any wrongdoing or anti-Semitism. 

According to a 2005 news story, the imam said he contacted police about Chen after he sent him an email offering to become a "diehard."

Chen said he believes the two incidents are related: "The police still have a file on me. I don't know why they still have an axe to grind on my case."

Vancouver police spokesman Const. Brian Montague said the case is unusual.

"It does happen. This is a really good reminder for people to pick up the phone and call 911 when they see something strange and suspicious like this," he said.

"We'd much rather deal with a situation before things have a potential to escalate than deal with the aftermath."

Chen's next court appearance is July 14.

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