SALT LAKE CITY — Russian police are looking for a man who robbed two Mormon missionaries at knife point on Saturday, threatened to kill them and forced them to withdraw money from an ATM before letting them go.
"Elder Jeffrey Alan Owen of Coppell, Texas, and Elder Kamron Hunter Call of Moab, Utah, both serving in the Russia Samara Mission, were robbed by a man they had met for a teaching appointment in Engels, Russia," Cody Craynor, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Sunday. "The man forcibly drove them to an ATM and demanded they withdraw cash and then let them go. The missionaries were not harmed during the incident and are safe."
Call's family learned about the incident Saturday night from their stake president, according to the missionary's father, Russ Call. The missionary spoke with his family by telephone Sunday morning.
"He felt he was protected by the Lord and that the incident turned out as well as it could have," Russ Call said. "The missionaries aren't nervous about being there. They're ready to go back to work once the police find this guy."
The suspect was known to the missionaries, Russ Call said. The man, about 22 years old, had called them and invited the missionaries to bring a copy of the Book of Mormon to his apartment, where he was waiting with his 21-year-old wife or girlfriend. After they arrived, Owen and Call taught the man and woman for about 20 minutes. Owen told his mother Leslie in a phone call Sunday morning that after the missionaries told the couple they had to get to another appointment, the man jumped up and started cursing and ransacking their bags.
"He locked and barred the door and told them he was going to kill them both," Leslie Owen told the Deseret News.
The man took their money, phones and cameras, and the woman used her phone to look up the value of the missionaries' cameras, bags and phones. She also called friends and asked them to come over to the apartment and help them kill the missionaries, according to Leslie Owen and a Facebook item posted Sunday by Mike Call, Kamron Call's brother.
The friends refused. Russ Call said the missionaries believe the man had a mental breakdown or was high on drugs.
The man forced the missionaries to walk to an ATM and withdraw money for him. As is normal for LDS missionaries, "they had hardly any money available, for good reason," Russ Call said.
"I think it was about 3,000 rubles," he said, or about $85.
The man then gave the missionaries back their phones and about 100 rubles (less than $3) for bus or cab fare. The three men walked toward a cab. Owen felt impressed to keep walking, Russ Call said, and the man got into the cab while the missionaries walked away.
Owen and Call are not missionary companions. (LDS missionaries serve in pairs.) Owen, who has served as a missionary for 20 months, had returned to Engels for the day to attend a baptism of someone he had taught. He was on a "split," or missionary exchange, with Call. Meanwhile, Call's regular companion, Elder Kevin Boyer of Arizona, and Owen's companion, Elder Harrison, apparently had teamed up for the day.
After leaving the man, Owen and Call were late for the baptism and continued straight there, where they told their mission president what happened. The president took them to police.
"The police were very concerned about taking care of the missionaries and very thorough," Russ Call said. "They seemed to know the man."
Kamron Call's mother, Kimberly, was in Arizona visiting parents when the family learned of the incident. She spent a sleepless night, Russ Call said, until their son could call Sunday morning, though she knew he was safe.
The Calls are accustomed to having missionaries overseas. Kamron Call is the 9th of their 12 children and the eighth to serve a mission. All have served outside the United States. Kamron Call is in Russia and an older brother is in Mexico. The other six children served in Australia (two), Korea, Bulgaria, Norway and England.
Russ Call served a mission in Spain.
"My kids have been all over the world, and they've loved serving missions," he said. "They've been treated well everywhere they've gone."
Kamron Call was born in Arizona but moved with his family to Utah at an early age. He graduated salutatorian at Grand County High School in Moab.
Jeffrey Owen is one of six children of Steve and Leslie Owen. Two older brothers have served LDS missions, one in Bolivia and the other in Salt Lake City. Owen graduated from NewTech High School in Coppell, Texas, and studied for a year at Texas A&M before entering the mission field.
Engels is a "suburb of Saratov," Leslie Owen said, and the Facebook item posted by Call's brother said Call and Boyer were living in the same apartment once lived in by Travis Tuttle and Andrew Propst, who were kidnapped while serving an LDS mission in Saratov, Russia, in 1998. Russ Call said the family isn't certain the apartment is the same, though the Calls and the Owens said they know it is in the same area.
Tuttle and Propst were held for ransom, but the perpetrators eventually released them without incident. Those assailants were captured and imprisoned. "The Saratov Approach," a movie about the incident, was released last year.
Russ Call said there is no indication Saturday's robbery had any connection to the movie or to the Sochi Olympics happening nearly 900 miles away.
The missionaries "are basically on lockdown now," Leslie Owen said. "They're not to leave their apartment until this man is captured." She assumed her son is staying in Engels with Harrison, Call and Boyer.
Kamron Call continues to feel safe in Russia, his father said, "safer than he would in a lot of places in the States."
"My son says (incidents like Saturday) never happen," Russ Call said. "It was an exciting experience, but it turned out well, as it usually does for most missionaries."
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