JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ark. — A vandalism at a rural Jefferson County Baptist church is under investigation as a possible hate crime.
According to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the pastor of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church found the inside of the sanctuary trashed.
The incident report lists damage ranging from a burnt bible to wine poured over a communion table.
“It makes you think, where are you safe?” Sheriff Lafayette Woods said. “I did initially think about hate crimes.”
A white sheet left on a pew has churchgoers and investigators drawing their own conclusions.
“It was actually tied in a knot and strategically placed with straw, on top of a pew inside the sanctuary,” Sheriff Woods explained. “I really do not know the correlation whether it was a prank, a dare, or a hate crime.”
The crime has neighbors questioning a motive, knowing the church is predominantly African American.
“It’s targeted, and to me it’s really tragic.” said one neighbor who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for his safety. “In this day and time, going through this, the hatred, is just ridiculous.”
The sheriff says nothing was reported missing, so the charges whoever is responsible faces would be breaking and entering and criminal mischief.
Arkansas is one of four states that doesn’t have hate crime laws in the books. Earlier this month, Governor Asa Hutchinson called on lawmakers to change that.