Several Catholic properties including churches and cemeteries have been targeted throughout June and July.
While some of the incidents are still under investigation, at least two people have been arrested, with charges ranging from vandalism to attempted second-degree murder.
The crimes follow protests over police brutality, and have taken a violent turn that has resulted in the vandalism and destruction of property that has included churches.
Providence, Rhode Island: Keveon Gomera, 26, was charged in June with vandalism and assault with intent to commit a felony after he allegedly vandalized the graves of several Dominican friars and assaulted a security guard at Providence College, a Catholic college. Gomera allegedly painted swastikas and anti-Catholic language on the central cross in the cemetery and on several headstones. (RELATED: Man Arrested After Defacing Catholic Cemetery With Swastikas, Anti-Catholic Language)
A viewer who doesn’t want name published shared photo he took this AM of Swastika painted within area of @providencecol Dominican Cemetery on campus. @ProvidenceRIPD says it arrested man last night who police say painted swastikas, lit fire, & assaulted security guard @NBC10 pic.twitter.com/36eL7Gik0k
— Jared Pelletier (@NBC10_Jared) June 23, 2020
Sacramento, California: A statue of St. Junipero Serra was destroyed July 4. The California Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced the vandalism of the statue. “The historical truth is that Serra repeatedly pressed the Spanish authorities for better treatment of the Native American communities,” the bishops said in a statement. “Serra was not simply a man of his times. In working with Native Americans, he was a man ahead of his times who made great sacrifices to defend and serve the indigenous population and work against an oppression that extends far beyond the mission era.”
San Gabriel, California: San Gabriel Mission, a nearly 250-year-old Catholic mission, was heavily damaged by fire after a blaze destroyed the rooftop and most of its interior Saturday morning, July 11. The cause of the fire is under investigation but the toppling of a statue of Junipero Serra, the founder of the California mission system, will be considered in the investigation, according to KTLA 5.
Marion County, Florida: Steven Shields, 24, was arrested Saturday, July 11 after allegedly crashing his vehicle into the front doors of Queen of Peace Catholic Sanctuary, pouring gasoline in the foyer area and setting it aflame while parishioners were inside the church preparing for mass. Police say he fled the scene and was caught by police in a vehicle chase. Shields told police he targeted the Catholic Church because of a “mission,” according to News 4 Jax. He also said he was not taking his medication for Schizophrenia.
Shields was charged with attempted second-degree murder, three felony counts of evidencing prejudice, arson to a structure, and burglary of an occupied structure and felony fleeing or attempting to elude.
Marion County Sheriff’s Office says 24-yo Steven Anthony Shields drove a white minivan into the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala and tried setting it on fire with gas. Shields allegedly told detectives he was on a “mission” and had issues with the church. Mug From MCSO. pic.twitter.com/F84tmGKfEw
— Chris Guardaro (@ChrisWESH2News) July 11, 2020
Boston, Massachusetts: Police are investigating an arson at St. Peter’s Parish where a statue of the Virgin Mary was set on fire Saturday night. Fire investigators say it appears that someone set fire to the plastic flowers that were placed in the hands of the statue, which was dedicated in memory of World War II servicemen.
“This is obviously someone disturbed, someone who has a lot of trouble, a troubled soul,” Pastor John Currie said, according to NBC Boston. “But I know our Lady in Heaven is looking down on the soul, or whoever it might’ve been, and saying, ‘I love you! If you need help, come get help. We’re here for you.'”
Queens, New York: An individual was recorded on surveillance footage vandalizing a Virgin Mary statue in front of Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary Friday, July 10. The suspect spray painted “Idol” on the statue, CBS New York reported.