Shot-gun, Thefts and Burglaries Make Churches Victims of Crime

Cops: Suspect with shotgun robs church choir

Investigators say a man armed with a shotgun robbed a choir group at a church in the Lowcountry Wednesday (1/18/12) night.

Authorities responded to the St. James United Methodist Church on 512 St. James Ave. around 8 p.m. in reference to an armed robbery.

One of the victims told police that a man entered the church through an unlocked door and aimed a shotgun towards the choir area. The victims told police that the suspect then told the choir to get on the floor and to “Keep your heads down, I’ll blow your head off.”

According to investigators, the suspect continued to demand everyone’s wallets and purses and told everyone to keep their heads down.

Investigators describe the suspect as a black male between 5’10” to 5’11, 230 lbs, wearing a black knit cap, blue jeans, light colored jacket, gray jogging style shoes and armed with a shotgun.

One of the victims told investigators that the suspect’s speech was “Gullah-like” and knew that it was not a Jamaican or Georgian accent.

Another victim reported that she had seen the suspect prior to the robbery coming from the direction of Immaculate Conception on 510 St. James Ave. with a rifle or gun.

Police are continuing the investigation.

West Hartford Police Investigate 4 More Church Burglaries

Police said Monday they are investigating four more church break-ins, including three reported over the weekend. That brings the total in West Hartford to eight and in Greater Hartford to 11.

The Universalist Church of West Hartford at 433 Fern St. was hit twice on Sunday. On Saturday, a burglary was discovered at the Angels on Assignment Christian Center at 1061 Boulevard. And on Friday a break-in was discovered at St. James Episcopal Church at 1018 Farmington Ave.

Capt. Don Melanson said detectives are following up on leads. In each case, nothing substantial was taken, he said.

Burglaries were previously reported at the First Church of Christ Congregational, 12 S. Main St.; First Baptist Church, 90 N. Main St.; Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2080 Boulevard; and Farmington Avenue Baptist Church, 155 Mountain Road, police said.

Burglaries were also reported at the Rocky Hill Congregational Church and at the Wethersfield United Methodist Church, and a church in Berlin.

West Hartford Det. Sgt. Frank Fallon said police are also urging churches in town to evaluate building security measures, including alarms, making sure doors are locked and keeping track of people who are in the buildings.

Melanson said detectives are talking with their colleagues in Rocky Hill, Berlin and Wethersfield. Detectives are still working to determine whether the burglaries are linked, he said.

He urged anyone who sees anyone or anything suspicious around a church to call police immediately.

Jacksonville Church Hit By Copper Thieves a Third Time

Church service went on as scheduled inside One Accord Ministries International this morning, but outside, there’s plenty of evidence of wrongdoing.

“I came out to find out that the copper part of this unit was taken. They cut the copper out real nice and neatly,” said church Bishop Jan Goodman, Sr.

The trouble doesn’t end with that one A/C unit.  A second unit was completely dismantled and stripped of it’s copper.

The thefts took place between Thursday night and Friday morning.  The thief or thieves managed to get past a locked gate and barbed wire fence.

“It still kind of surprises you that people will take opportunities to vandalize the church knowing that it’s God’s house,” said church member Billy Starke.

According to JSO, the number of A/C theft victims over the past two years exceed the 3,700 mark with a 40 percent increase expected this year.

Replacing the units is expensive.

“It’s always a few thousands and it’s no chump change,” said Goodman.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking the city council to beef up local scrap metal laws.  One request is to require recyclers submit daily electronic records of purchases and make those purchases with checks, no cash.

It’s believed the changes would help cut down on thefts.

“They took their time and meticulously went through this and dismantled it and it had to be some people, not just one person,” said Goodman.

As for One Accord, this isn’t the first time the church has been hit.  Two units in the back of the church are now gated and protected because of thefts just a year ago.

Bishop Goodman thought the ones in front would be fine with them facing busy Interstate-10.

“No matter what we do, whatever the enemy wants to do, he can do it, but the whole thing is how we respond to what he does,” said Goodman.

Church leaders are responding with kindness and offering some words for those responsible.

“If that person is watching, we do pray that you would get your life right,” said Starke.

First Coast News

BB gun-toting bicyclists terrorize church after-school program

Members of a Raleigh church said Friday that students in their after-school program have been shot at twice this week by teens on bicycles armed with pellet guns.

They are just as surprised by what they say is a slow response by Raleigh police to the situation.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, dozens of underprivileged students go to Avent Ferry United Methodist Church, at 2700 Avent Ferry Road, for a free meal and some help with their school work.

Both days this week, some teens rode their bicycles alongside the church van as it picked the children up for the program and began firing pellet guns at the vehicle, church member Wendell Gilliam said.

Susan Bell, the director of the program, called 911 at 4 p.m. Thursday to report the incidents, Gilliam said, because the children were too scared to leave the building.

“She was told that they would have a policeman call her. That did not happen,” he said, noting Bell then called 911 a second time.

When the second call again led to no response, Gilliam said he drove to a police substation on Hutton Street to ask for help.

“They told me they couldn’t help me. I had to call 911. An officer, actually two officers, would not come over,” he said. “It irritates me very much that it takes so long to get a policeman to come when you have children being shot at. If that’s not serious enough to get a response from police, what is?”

Gilliam said an officer arrived at the church at 6:45 p.m. Thursday to escort the children home. They usually are taken home at 6 p.m., he said.

Police dispute some of Gilliam’s account of the incident, noting the first 911 call wasn’t made until 4:53 p.m. In that call, Bell never told the dispatcher that the children were in danger, only that BBs has been fired at the church van.

In the 911 call released by police, the caller states that the van was shot at at Gorman Street and Conifer Drive and had left the intersection.

“They continued on. I told them to move out,” the caller says.

Maj. J.C. Perry said he spoke to the substation supervisors and believes the officers made an attempt to follow up on the 911 calls from the church.

“They checked the computer to see if it was something ongoing at that moment,” Perry said. “I can’t imagine that we didn’t do anything to provide immediate assistance.”

Police said they were still looking into the matter.

Gilliam said some of the children who normally attend the program weren’t there on Thursday. He said he hopes police will provide more assistance next week when the program resumes.

“I want a policeman to be around, and I want that bus to be escorted,” he said. “(The children) are afraid.”



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