Three suspects have been charged with vandalism of multiple houses of worship in southeast Maryland, including one historic Black church that suffered approximately $100,000 in damages.
On Wednesday, Anne Arundel County Police Department officers arrested Jarren Alexander, 22, on charges of vandalism against two area churches. His alleged crimes included extensive damage to Fowler United Methodist Church (UMC), a historic Black church in Annapolis, on June 9. Alexander also is being charged in connection with two additional incidents of vandalism at nearby St. Philip’s Episcopal Church on subsequent nights.
Fowler UMC Reverend Jerome Jones briefly recounted the vandalism he saw firsthand in a press conference today. More than 100 Bibles and hymnals were destroyed, five televisions were smashed, and a large wooden cross was cracked on a pew.
In addition, authorities announced two suspects were charged following the destruction of “Black Lives Matter” and Pride signs posted at Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church in Odenton. Twin 19-year-old brothers, Blake and Brandon Krenzer, of Gambrills, Md., were charged with vandalism and issued a criminal summons by the court commissioner.
In video surveillance released by authorities, the suspects appear to deface the signs. One of the suspects appears to be wearing a bandana with a confederate flag over his face. Another is wearing a shirt that says, “American Muscle,” with an American flag on it.
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One other incident of vandalism at a house of worship remains unsolved.
De acuerdo a Maryland law, any property damage of a religious entity is considered a hate crime.
“Let me be very clear: there is no place for hate in our county,” said Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief Katie Roberts at a press conference on Thursday. “We will not tolerate hateful acts of any kind towards our places of worship or any individuals in this county.”
She added: “We put 110% of our effort into this investigation, and it showed these past two weeks.”
The press conference focused on the Fowler UMC incident, which has attracted national attention.
“$100,000 of damage in one church in one night is an astronomical amount,” said police spokesman Chris Anderson. “And it’s not just the money, it’s the safety, security, and impact on people.”
Recounting how the suspect was located, Anderson said the midnight patrol officer in the Southern District recalled a trespassing incident that occurred the same week. That officer and the detectives on the case obtained surveillance footage.
Deputy Roberts stated that the department posted surveillance images from that footage on social media. “Within 30 minutes . . . several community members came forward with tips that led to arrests in these cases,” she said.
“I have pastored since 2012, and I have never seen a church in such disarray and so much pain in a room,” said Reverend Jones. “Frederick Douglass once said, ‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress.’ But (we) have held on to our faith. Most of all, we never let go of hope.
He added that filing insurance claims for the damage “has not been an easy task, but we are pressing through.” Jones also expressed thanks for those who have donated to the church and for “neighbors who came and sat with us in our pain.”
Police department officials stated that the motives for the vandalism incidents are still being determined.
Periodista independiente Josh Shepherd escribe sobre fe, cultura y políticas públicas para varios medios outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.