CROWLEY, La. (AP) — A string of church vandalisms in a predominantly African American Louisiana community has prompted local police to seek federal authorities' help with investigating the possible hate crimes.
Five churches in Crowley have each had a glass door or window broken by a heavy object at night in the past four months, news outlets reported.
Crowley Police Chief Jimmy Broussard said he considers the actions to be hate crimes because churches are being targeted and all are in a predominantly African American community. Three of the churches are historically black.
Broussard said he cannot confirm whether the vandalism is racially motivated, but he said the department is taking the incidents seriously especially in the wake of recent arson attacks against several historically black churches in St. Landry Parish, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northeast of Crowley. A white man charged in connection with those burnings has pleaded not guilty.
The first desecration in Crowley happened in early July, when a padlock was thrown through a stained-glass window at First Lutheran Church, a predominantly white church.
The latest incident was discovered Monday at the Jerusalem Baptist Church.
The Rev. Sherard Marlon Joseph says it's the second time a church he works with has been recently vandalized.
Joseph told The Acadiana Advocate that if he could speak to the vandals he would say that they maybe be eluding the authorities or the congregations but they will never elude God.
"We just need it to stop," the pastor says. "We just need it to stop. And if they never get caught, then that's something they'll have to deal with God."
Broussard says he believes the vandals are juveniles because "hardened criminals" were "taught by their mothers and grandmothers to respect God's house." He says the case will be turned over to federal investigators within a week or two.
"You have no respect for the houses of worship. We have no respect for you," Broussard says. "We're looking for you. It's better for you to turn yourself in now then for us to come and get you."??