Arson, vandalism and minor damage reported this week against congregations

These are some of the crimes committed against congregations reported today in North America:

The Church of God in Aylmer, ON in has been hit by vandals four times in the past month according to a report from The London Free Press.

KSNB Television is reporting that trial set to begin for a Nebraska man accused of setting a church on fire in Buffalo County, Nebraska.

A Sacramento, California man was arrested for arson after setting a church on fire in Glenn County, California according to a press release from the sheriff’s office.

Unknown criminals damaged the marquee at Macedonia AME Church in Carrollton, Virginia according to The Smithfield Times.

A cathedral in Ohio was vandalized with graffiti stating, “Jesus is Black” according to the Catholic News Agency.

A Toledo, Ohio police officer and a church arson suspect were both killed in a standoff this week according to WTOL television. A sheriff’s deputy was also killed according to NBC News.

Five church buildings vandalized in same Texas community

William Desjardins

Police in Texas are looking for a man caught on video vandalizing a church building. Officers in the US say the individual may be responsible for five additional criminal acts at buildings belonging to other congregations.

Security cameras caught video of a man inside the Missionary Baptist Church of Hughes Springs, Texas, where offices were ransacked and money set aside for a congregation member’s funeral was stolen. Nearby Turkey Creek Baptist church and New Colony Baptist Church had damage to their buildings that appeared to have happened in a similar manner. Two other churches have been targeted since January.

Police have not said why the vandals targeted specifically church buildings.

Halifax Regional Police arrest men accused in five church burglaries

Jeff Turner

Two men are charged with a string of burglaries that happened at church buildings in Dartmouth, N.S. late last year. Investigators in the General Investigation Section of the Criminal Investigation Division say both men are 28. One is a resident of Dartmouth and the other is of Timberlea.

The break-ins happened between September 17 and 20. Congregations whose buildings were damaged as the pair stole their property include South End Baptist Church, Lutheran Church of our Savior, Church of the Holy Spirit, Grace Baptist Church, and St. James United Church.

Police have not said why the men targeted churches.

A press release issued late Friday says the accused men are scheduled to appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court.

What others are reporting:

Chronicle Herald: Two men charged in rash of break-ins at Dartmouth churches

CTVNews: Two men charged with breaking into five Dartmouth churches

Halifax Today: Two charged in break-ins at multiple Dartmouth churches

Historic chapel set ablaze in Georgia, US officials seek arsonist

1/11/2021 UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that inspectors have confirmed the fire was intentionally set.

Jeff Turner

Authorities in the US say a fire at an historic chapel in Georgia was intentionally set.

A spokesperson for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office said emergency crews were called to the Smith Chapel Church in Bowdon, Georgia around 12 p.m. Monday. The church building was fully engulfed in flame when the first emergency worker arrived.

“We believe at this point the fire was intentionally set and we are asking anyone who was in the area and may have witnessed anything unusual between 10 am and 2 pm to contact Investigator Brandon Wiggins,” said the spokesperson.

The sheriff’s office as of Tuesday afternoon has not determined a motive for the crime.

Historic Rural Churches is an organization that seeks to document and preserve historic church buildings.  Its website says the chapel has stood since 1851.

US offers $50K reward in church arson

Officials in the US are offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person (or persons) who burned a church building.

A press release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation says the arson attack happened Sept. 17, 2020 at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco.

“This act of violence was not just an attack on a building, but on a congregation. This was an attack on a community,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair. “We are counting on assistance from members of the community to keep our city safe. Every lead will be thoroughly investigated. Regardless of how insignificant you think your information might be, we strongly encourage you to come forward and we welcome your information and assistance.”

The FBI has jurisdiction to investigate fires set at houses of worship under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for those who wish to donate to the church.