Church Crime Watch 12/24/2023
As we gather to celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas Eve, let us remember the joy and peace this season brings. However, amidst our celebrations, it's important to stay vigilant and informed about incidents impacting our churches. Please pray for the safety of our churches this Christmas as we gather together to celebrate the birth of our Savior and for those of you that are standing watch over our flock.
Embezzlement at Dallas Church of God, North Carolina
In Dallas, North Carolina, a suspect has been arrested and charged by the Dallas Police Department for allegedly embezzling over $470,000 from the Dallas Church of God. The church's accounting department first noticed discrepancies in their funds in 2021. Upon further investigation, including an audit by the church's bank, it was discovered that unauthorized withdrawals and payments, including transactions to PayPal, had been made from 2018 to 2023. The suspect, identified as Jordan Shortridge, was arrested on December 8, 2023, and is facing charges of Felony Larceny. This criminal investigation highlights a significant breach of trust within the church community, shedding light on the need for stringent financial oversight in religious institutions.
(You would think a church would be safe from insider theft, but we aren’t. These thefts occur because of a number of things, but can be prevented by a strong policy on internal audits. Every internal theft I dealt with as a cop could have been prevented by frequent audits. Many were stopped before the damage was too steep by internal auditing).
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Arson at Saint Mark United Methodist Church Cemetery, Anne Arundel County
In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, an arson incident at the Saints Rest Cemetery, operated by Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Hanover, is being investigated as a hate crime. On a Saturday afternoon, an unknown individual or group set fire to a cemetery sign, causing damage. The incident, which took place around 1:30 PM, is believed to be targeted and motivated by hate, as the cemetery predominantly serves the African-American community. The Anne Arundel County Police, along with the Fire Marshal’s office, are actively investigating the crime. Authorities are seeking information from the public and encourage anyone with knowledge of the incident to contact the Anne Arundel County Police Tip Line. (Arson is one of the top crimes committed against us as Christians. The top way to help with this issue is strong video surveillance that uploads to the cloud so that the video isn’t burned up in the fire. With a clear picture of the suspect, police can do wonders at finding the suspect).
Terroristic Threat at St. Matthew Catholic Church, San Antonio
In San Antonio, Texas, police are on the lookout for a man accused of making a terroristic threat towards St. Matthew Catholic Church. The incident occurred on a Friday, when the unidentified man entered the church at 10703 Wurzbach Road, seeking to speak with a priest. Upon being informed that no priest was available, he pulled out a "tube-like item with metal on either side" and made a reference to having a car full of explosives. The man left the church shortly thereafter. This incident, which coincided with a funeral Mass, has raised serious concerns within the community. The church staff has provided video footage to aid in identifying the suspect, who, if found, will be charged with making a terroristic threat causing public fear. St. Matthews Catholic Church Pastor Eric J. Ritter confirmed that the incident was immediately reported to law enforcement and reassured that appropriate action is being taken.
(I’m going to say it loud for the people in the cheap seats: Have armed security on duty at your church during important events, have a top quality video system that is 4k quality, and keep training including scenario training that includes this specific scenario. Keep doing the scenario until you do it right!).
Burglary at Christ Memorial Baptist Church, Lakeland, Florida
Two men, Ronald McCain, 27, and Nelson Newman, 59, have been arrested for breaking into Christ Memorial Baptist Church in Lakeland, Florida, and stealing food. The incident occurred early Friday morning when the duo illegally entered an outbuilding of the church and took frozen meat, Gatorade, and ice cream. The stolen items were valued at around $300. McCain and Newman, who have prior arrest records, were caught after deputies circulated a picture of the bike and trailer used in the burglary. Found at a home on Meridian Avenue, they had several containers of ice cream and a case of Gatorade in their possession. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd emphasized that the church likely would have helped the men if they had asked, highlighting the unnecessary nature of the theft. Both men face charges of burglary, theft, and tampering with evidence. (See what a quality video system can do for you? The deputies found them based on solid video from the church. Our law enforcement are amazing people that can do amazing things with little to go on. Next up, get an alarm for your church… both fire and burglar alarms. Do you see a trend with the stories so far in regards to prevention?).
Jefferson City Church Burglary Involving Electronics Theft
In Jefferson City, Missouri, a man has been charged in connection with a July burglary at a local church, where over $10,000 worth of electronics were stolen. Jayeric Foreman, 25, of Jefferson City, is accused of driving the getaway vehicle, a GMC Yukon, used in the heist. The burglary occurred while the church was unlocked for a Bible study session. The suspect, Lyndell Dale, was allegedly captured on video removing electronics from the church and hiding them in a nearby wood line. Foreman, who was arrested on August 1, initially denied knowing how the items got into his vehicle but later admitted to his involvement in the crime. The case highlights the importance of security measures in places of worship, even during regular activities like Bible study. Again, it also shows the importance of quality video systems.
Former Aurora Pastor Indicted on Sexual Assault Charges
A former pastor from a church in Aurora has been indicted on 16 counts of sexual assault, with the Washington Co. Sheriff's Office indicating that some victims were children. The indictment, announced on Wednesday, follows an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by the pastor. The Sheriff's Office suggests that there may be more victims yet to come forward. This should not be occurring. It shows up each week, though, in the newsletter… often multiple times. Have a strong policy to protect our children, make sure you patrol the children’s areas and read the article I wrote below on this subject.
Vandalism at Calvary Baptist Church, Fruitland Park, Florida
In Fruitland Park, Florida, Calvary Baptist Church experienced significant vandalism, resulting in over $10,000 in damages. This incident, which occurred on Sunday night, was perpetrated by a 35-year-old local resident with a lengthy criminal background. The church's front lawn and parking lot were heavily damaged when the suspect performed "donuts" in a white Ford F-250, as captured by video surveillance. The pastor of the church, located at 3740 Eagles Nest Road, recognized the vehicle, which had previously caused damage at the church. The suspect, who lives on Eagles Nest Road, had posted a video of the incident on his Facebook page, which was later removed but captured by authorities. In addition to the felony charge of criminal mischief for the church damage, the suspect was also charged with simple assault for threatening a local resident who confronted him about similar damage to his property. He was arrested and released on a $6,000 bond. This suspect has a history of criminal activities, including grand theft and methamphetamine possession.
Former Pastor Charged with Child Sex Crime in Fayette County, West Virginia
In Fayette County, West Virginia, a 41-year-old former pastor from Bluefield has been charged with a serious sex crime involving a minor. The individual, previously serving at a church in Mount Hope, is accused of offering money for sexual services with a minor. According to a criminal complaint filed in Raleigh County, he was charged with patronizing a victim of sexual servitude. The incident involved the former pastor traveling to Beckley to meet what he believed was the guardian of a minor for the purpose of arranging a sexual encounter. The meeting was a sting operation, leading to his arrest after law enforcement observed him at the scene. He was later released on a $50,000 bond. If convicted, the felony charge could result in a prison term of three to 15 years and a fine up to $300,000. Mount Hope Christian Church, where he served, released a statement expressing shock over the arrest and assured that the events leading to the arrest did not involve any church members or happen on church premises. The pastor's employment was terminated immediately following his arrest.
Theft of Christmas Funds from Bethel Lutheran Church, Madison, Wisconsin
In Madison, Wisconsin, Bethel Lutheran Church became the victim of theft when their Christmas funds, intended to help children in the community, were stolen from a parked car. The incident occurred on a Monday afternoon outside the church. The car's owner witnessed the theft as it happened, involving an envelope full of money and two smartphones. Madison police later arrested 59-year-old Jose A. Lino in a grocery store on East Washington Avenue. Lino resisted arrest, resulting in additional charges, including spitting on and kicking officers, felony bail jumping, resisting arrest causing soft tissue injury, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of THC, misdemeanor bail jumping, and carrying a concealed weapon. (Don’t leave anything valuable in your car… no matter where you live. Even if you live in a rural community of two, expect someone will break in and steal your gun, money, or whatever you left behind while you ran an errand).
Theft of A/C Condensers at Grace Baptist Church, North Memphis
Five air conditioning (A/C) condensers, each valued at approximately $5,000, were stolen from Grace Baptist Church in North Memphis, Tennessee. This incident occurred on Saturday morning, as confirmed by surveillance footage timestamped around 10:30 a.m. The Memphis Police are investigating the theft, which resulted in a significant loss for the church. The suspect, last seen wearing a red hoodie and light wash blue jeans, drove away in a gold sedan. The local authorities are seeking any information related to this crime and encourage those with knowledge of the incident to contact Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.
Shooting Outside Funeral Service at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Cleveland
In a tragic turn of events, a shooting occurred outside the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church on East 126th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. This incident took place during the funeral service of Di'Mesha Wright, a 23-year-old woman who was recently shot while holding her baby. The Cleveland Division of Police reported one person injured in this shooting. The incident shocked the community and the congregation, with church secretary Margaret Brown expressing disbelief over such violence at the church, where she has worked for 30 years. Local officials, including Congresswoman Shontel Brown, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, and Cleveland City Councilman Michael Polensek, condemned the violence and emphasized the need for action against gun-related crimes. The authorities continue to investigate and address this alarming trend of gun violence in the area. (Shootings do occur at funerals. Usually, it is gang related because an entire gang can be located at a single location. This makes easy pickings for rival gangs. I’ll be doing an article later about what to do with certain funerals that can bring violence to your church).
Man Severely Burned at Fire at Indian Creek Baptist Church Playground
A man was hospitalized with severe burns following a fire at the playground of Indian Creek Baptist Church in DeKalb County, near Stone Mountain, Georgia. The incident occurred early Thursday morning when DeKalb County firefighters, driving by the church located at the intersection of Memorial Drive and Rockbridge Road around 4 a.m., noticed the fire. They responded immediately, even without a dispatch call. Upon reaching the playground, the firefighters found the equipment ablaze and the injured man, who was conscious but severely burned. The man was quickly taken to the hospital, and as of the report, he had not been interviewed by investigators. The cause of the fire and the circumstances leading to the man's injuries are under investigation.