Buffalo police investigate 'bias crimes' at several churches - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Buffalo police investigate 'bias crimes' at several churches

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The Buffalo Police Department is investigating what they believe are a series of bias crimes against five churches in the area over the weekend, three of which were damaged.

Investigators say they responded to a series of incidents between 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Monday.

Four of the reports initially involved handwritten posters containing inflammatory messages, but building damage was later reported at two of those churches. A third church was also damaged.

The churches affected are:

  • St. Francis Xavier
  • Zion Lutheran
  • 7th Day Adventist
  • Buffalo Presbyterian
  • Hosanna Lutheran

Pastor Rob Jarvis admits he feared the worst when he saw the glass doors had been shattered at Hosanna Lutheran Church.

"I was expecting to see an alter desecrated or something," he said. "Nothing had been touched."

Police believe the same person broke into St. Francis Xavier and destroyed a number of windows at the 7th Day Adventist Church. The other churches were plastered with signs making reference to Jesus being gay and other offensive comments.

"When we arrived on Sunday and saw this poster with a lot of inflammatory language about Jesus, we took it down and called the police," Jarvis said.

Buffalo Police Chief Mitch Weintzel said the signs contained homosexual overtones and derogatory comments that any Christian person would find offensive as relating to Jesus.

Victims say it's clear whoever left the signs was trying to send a message. Now, investigators are trying to find out what that message is.

So far, officials say there is no clear link between the vandalism and the controversial marriage amendment. The churches that were struck differ in their stances and there was no mention of voting on the signs.

"At first, I thought it might have because there was some homosexual language and overtones on the poster -- but as I've been hearing a little bit more and talking with police about it, we're doubting that might actually be the issue," Jarvis said.

Police did collect surveillance video and released images of a person of interest in the case, along with a dark, two-tone minivan he may be driving.

"Churches are generally off-limits," Weintzel told FOX 9 News. "Even criminals don't typically mess with churches."

Anyone with information regarding the man's identity or the suspicious activity at the churches is asked to call the Buffalo Police Department at 763-682-5972.

Officials say the vandal could face charges of felony property damage and possible hate crimes if caught.

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