BELLEVUE, Wash. - A 31-year-old man was taken into custody on Tuesday afternoon after he allegedly threw rocks, spray-painted and broke glass at St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue.
The suspect was caught on camera throwing a rock repeatedly at a door inside a pastoral office, before kicking and punching the glass in. A woman was inside praying and tried to talk to the man, before locking herself inside as he continued to spray paint the rock wall outside the building.
He was chased off by an employee, but not before throwing a rock at him and spray-painted him across the face.
When all the dust had settled, the entrance to one building was destroyed, a second door was shattered at the church’s parish hall and more than a dozen places throughout the campus were spray-painted.
Messages ranged from "liar," to "religion of hate" and "go to your fake Hell."
Father Gary Zender told FOX 13 that the hardest part was seeing damage to a small statue that the graduating class of 2020 had donated to the school. He noted that it was meaningful because it was harkened back to a prayer about how Mother Mary can "unknot" our issues – ironic, as he noted anyone attacking his church must have their own wounds.
"When I try to look at the person and their wounds – that helps me to step back and say ‘I have some wounds too,’" said Zender. "So, there’s a human connection there, as well as a spiritual one."
Zender said his main goal in the moment was to make sure his employee that was attacked is okay, and then the repair of the physical damage can take place.
Asked whether he believed the vandalism was directly linked to the recent Roe v. Wade decision, he said it was hard to say. Though he noted as recently as Saturday, a second parish sustained similar damage in Renton. It’s not known if the incidents are connected.
Captain Darryl McKinney, with Bellevue Police, said that the damage would fall under a hate crime statute. The man will face additional charges for assaulting the member of the St. Louise Catholic Church’s staff. It’s not known whether additional charges will take place.
"Obviously, there’s a lot going on in the world," said McKinney. "People are worked up about things. They’re upset – or, at least some people are – I think there are some emotions stirred up and we’re seeing people act how they normally wouldn’t."
McKinney told FOX 13 News that the suspect was initially taken to Overlake Hospital. They believe the man sustained an injury while hitting one of the doors.
He was taken into custody without physical harm, according to McKinney, though Bellevue PD reported that the suspect used his backpack full of spray paint cans to smash the police cruiser before turning himself in.
"People want the church to be a safe place, that’s what we try to consistently do," said Zender. "It doesn’t feel safe for some folks right now. We just need to keep looking to Jesus and try to offer the ministry of healing the best way we can."