Embattled Harvest Bible Chapel founder James MacDonald, who allegedly sought to hire a hitman to commit murder, is also alleged to be a gun-toting bully who practiced his shooting at the church’s camp.
He once pointed a gun at a former worker who requested payment, witnesses told police.
The details were revealed in a heavily redacted report from Wilmette police in Illinois in which McDonald denied to one would-be victim that he had shopped for a contractor to murder the individual.
“MacDonald had learned of the podcast and murder for hire talk. MacDonald told [redacted] the rumors that he wanted [redacted] killed were untrue,” the report says.
The allegations regarding MacDonald’s efforts to commit murder were first reported by independent journalist Julie Roys, who cited Chicago radio personality Mancow Muller and Emmanuel “Manny” Bucur, a deacon at HBC and former confidant and volunteer bodyguard of MacDonald’s, as the individuals making the claims.
While all the names in the recently released report have been redacted except MacDonald’s, Muller confirmed that he filed the report last Thursday that triggered the investigation into the murder-for-hire allegations against MacDonald.
Concern over MacDonald was raised, according to the report, “because of his guns.”
“[Redacted] said it was well known that MacDonald is always armed. [Redacted] heard two specific stories concerning MacDonald and firearms. The church owns a large property in Michigan where they run a camp. MacDonald would shoot long guns there and used pictures of people’s spouses he disliked as targets,” the report says.
“The other example concerned a contractor working on MacDonald’s [redacted] residence. The contractor requested payment for his work, but MacDonald pointed a rifle at the man instead and pushed him down some steps,” it continues.
When witnesses were asked why they waited so long to report MacDonald, one cited fear as a major factor.
“I asked why there was a delay reporting these events to police. [Redacted] suspected one of the reasons [redacted] filed the police report on 5/16/19 was because a reporter present at the podcast asked [redacted] the same question. The reason [redacted] cited during the podcast for the delay was because [redacted] is afraid of MacDonald,” the report says.
The police report notes that while the investigation "revealed no chargeable criminal offenses within Wilmette's jurisdiction," the case has been referred to another unnamed jurisdiction for "potential further criminal investigation."
Bucur told Roys that in 2015, MacDonald asked him to kill his former son-in-law, Tony Groves, and offered to help dispose of the body. He argued that he did not report MacDonald because the pastor was angry about his daughter allegedly being hurt. The report alluded to a secretly recorded sex session involving his daughter and son-in-law that had sent MacDonald scouring porn sites for evidence.
On Monday, Muller published a pre-recorded interview with Bucur speaking under the alias “George” in which the former volunteer bodyguard first revealed MacDonald’s proposal.
Bucur, who said he believes MacDonald got away with “millions” from HBC, noted he also had to get a restraining order against MacDonald for trespassing at his house.
Investigators who conferred with the FBI on the case said the agency did not deem the information from the report of any “evidentiary value.” The IRS, which was also contacted about the case, said it could take no action without tax and financial information.
He was recorded talking about planting child pornography on Christianity Today CEO's Harold Smith's computer, and making crude remarks about independent journalist Julie Roys — including joking that she had an affair with CT Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli — and a vulgar reference to Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.
He also exited the megachurch under a cloud of allegations of financial abuse.
Elders at the embattled megachurch revealed in an announcement Saturday that MacDonald is pursuing arbitration with the church to settle a dispute over his firing and the church’s broadcast ministry, Walk in the Word.