Ganas: Former S.I. Commune Member Sought in Founder’s Shooting

A former member of a Staten Island commune built around the ideals of nonviolence, conflict resolution and open relationships is being sought in connection with the shooting of one of the group’s founders late Monday night, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

The police said that the injured man, Jeff Gross, 52, was ambushed and shot three times in the chest and arms as he returned to the commune’s group of homes on Corson Avenue, not far from the ferry terminal. Mr. Gross was in stable condition last night at St. Vincent’s Hospital Staten Island, where he had surgery.

Law enforcement authorities said that Mr. Gross told them his attacker was Rebekah Johnson, 42, a former resident of the commune, which is known as Ganas. She was asked to leave in the late 1990’s, the authorities and commune members said, after waging what they described as a crusade against Mr. Gross.

In a phone interview from the hospital, Mr. Gross said he was coming home last night from a movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” when he was attacked. “She was in the shadows,” said Mr. Gross, who said he counted at least four gunshots. “I was pleading with her to stop shooting.”

Ms. Johnson’s campaign, which included accusations of rape and charges that Mr. Gross had forced members to marry illegal immigrants, was conducted via fliers, graffiti and a Web site full of salacious accusations, they said. “We had a detective investigate her claims, but he found no substance to them,” said a law enforcement official.

Some of Ms. Johnson’s actions led to her arrest last year on harassment charges. According to a criminal complaint, Ms. Johnson would follow Mr. Gross in public and take photographs of his face. Other times, she trailed him in a car as he jogged and took pictures of him.

At the Staten Island Waterfront Festival, which Mr. Gross organizes each year, Ms. Johnson and her handmade leaflets were a familiar presence. The charges against her were eventually dropped, but Mr. Gross retained an order of protection, officials said. Yesterday, the police were searching for Ms. Johnson in Maryland and Canada, where she has relatives, the authorities said.

Mr. Gross is one of six founders of Ganas, which describes itself as a 25-year-old experiment in “open dialogue that is based on full disclosure,” according to its Web site.

Investigators said Ms. Johnson was waiting for Mr. Gross in the bushes as he approached his front door just before midnight Monday. Residents reported an argument, a series of shots and then screams. The shooting was reported yesterday in The Staten Island Advance.

Sarah Garland contributed reporting for this article.

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The New York Times, USA
May 31, 2006
Andrew Jacobs

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 31, 2006.
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