Police questioned a Los Angeles mayoral candidate Thursday on whether he made a death threat against another candidate.

David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg -- one of nine contenders trying to unseat Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- was met by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department when he arrived for a debate at Claude Pepper Senior Center on La Cienega Boulevard.

Police sources said he was taken to the Wilshire Division station and asked about comments he allegedly aimed at candidate Craig X Rubin.

In a brief interview with The Times, Saltsburg denied any wrongdoing, but confirmed that he had been questioned and released.

Rubin, a pastor at the Family Church in Pasadena, said Saltsburg called him at home Thursday morning and left a message threatening to kill him if he showed up at the debate later in the day.

Rubin said he believes it all began during a forum at UCLA on Wednesday when Saltsburg stormed out. Saltsburg apparently thought that Rubin and another candidate were mocking his comments embracing W. Edwards Deming's 14-point management philosophy.

"I don't know where the anger came from," Rubin said.

Rubin called police and officers came to his home in the San Fernando Valley, where he filed a formal complaint.

"As a pastor, I felt kind of conflicted about it," Rubin said. "You know, turn the other check. But I really did feel threatened."

Saltsburg denied leaving a threatening message for Rubin. "Did I say that [stuff] he said I said? The answer is absolutely not," he said. "I guess anybody can say anything in an open political forum, and beyond that, no comment."

phil.willon@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Times staff writers Andrew Blankstein, Sam Quinones and Richard Winton contributed to this report.