Church Crime Watch Nov. 27, 2023
Incendiary Device Found in Florida
On November 14, 2023, a Sheriff's Office in Florida responded to a report of a suspicious item at a local church and school. The object, a makeshift incendiary device, consisted of an eight-inch wooden piece tied with various items including a lighter, paper towel fragments, superglue, blue yarn, and an unidentified wafer-like object. This device is suspected to be part of a larger incendiary setup. An ongoing investigation is underway, and law enforcement urges extreme caution. If found, do not interact with such devices and immediately notify local law enforcement.
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Theft at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Sugar Land
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas, experienced a significant theft, with collection money stolen from its safe. The incident was discovered on a Monday morning following the previous Sunday's services, during which a janitor noticed signs of a break-in, including a broken window and an open door. The stolen funds, comprising the first and second collections, were intended for St. Vincent De Paul to assist the homeless. This crime, reported to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, adds to a series of church-related crimes within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Recently, a fake priest was reported stealing from a Houston church, although it's yet to be determined if these incidents are connected. Parishioners are urged to remain vigilant, especially regarding the unauthorized cashing of checks.
Report Reveals Inaction by Vineyard Church Leadership in Sexual Abuse Case
A recent report highlights a troubling situation at Vineyard Church in Duluth, where the senior pastor allegedly knew about sexual abuse committed by his son and failed to take action. It details allegations against Jackson Gatlin, a Pastoral Assistant and son of the former Senior Pastor Michael Gatlin. Jackson, arrested earlier this year, faces multiple charges of Criminal Sexual Conduct for having sex with underage members of the church's youth group. The GRACE report accuses both of Jackson's parents of being aware of the abuse but not intervening. Currently, they have not been charged. The Duluth Police Department confirms that the investigation is active and ongoing, urging any other survivors to come forward.
Arson Incident at Keokee Chapel United Methodist Church
In a recent incident at Keokee Chapel United Methodist Church, Steven Meyer, 65, from Paradise Township, was charged with arson, ethnic intimidation, and criminal mischief for allegedly setting an American flag on fire attached to the church. Pennsylvania State Police responded to the incident around 5:12 p.m. Monday. The fire was quickly extinguished by the Pocono Mountain Volunteer Fire Company.
Bomb Threat at Missoula Church Leads to Arrest
Dustin J. Clark, 43, faces charges including a felony count of intimidation based on religious affiliation, following a bomb threat to a Missoula church. The incident, which led to road closures near the church, involved a suspicious package found at the Church of the Nazarene. The Missoula Sheriff’s Office Explosive Ordinance Disposal team deemed the package non-explosive, containing benign chemicals and threatening messages. Clark, identified by a witness, has also been charged with stalking and violating privacy in communications. His arrest follows concerning behaviors and explicit threats towards the church's pastor, with whom he had previous employment ties. His bail is set at $150,000, with a court arraignment scheduled for December 4. The felony intimidation charge could result in up to ten years in Montana State Prison.
Impersonation Scam at Houston Church
A Houston church fell victim to a scam when a man posing as a Catholic priest stole $500. The impersonator, known as "Father Martin," gained the trust of the church community and access to a restricted area, where he took cash from a real priest's wallet. This case is part of a broader trend of faith-based scams, where criminals exploit the trust people typically place in religious figures. Such incidents underscore the need for heightened vigilance in our communities against potential fraudsters.
On November 23, in Dublin's city center, a distressing stabbing incident occurred near Parnell Square East, involving five people, including three children. The assailant, a man in his 50s believed to be an Algerian national, attacked a group of individuals, critically injuring a five-year-old girl and a woman in her 30s. The Gardaí, Ireland's police force, swiftly intervened, arresting the suspect who also sustained injuries. This incident, which led to widespread public unrest and protests, is under thorough investigation by the authorities, who have not yet determined a motive, including the possibility of terrorism.