Church vandalism suspect in custodyby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio,
Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Police in Buffalo, Minn., have a suspect in custody who they think vandalized four churches northwest of the Twin Cities by breaking a window, and placing "handwritten posters containing inflammatory messages" referencing gays and religion.
With help from the FBI, police arrested a 30-year-old Buffalo man Wednesday evening. According to a statement from the Buffalo police department, the man confessed and said he was "motivated to commit these acts due to his anger with God over personal issues." The suspect is being held in the Wright county jail.
Officers earlier tried to locate a person identified in a surveillance photo, according to Chief Mitch Weinzetl.
"That person continues to be of interest to us, and we're of a belief that they're connected to the incidents and we're currently trying to locate that person," Weinzetl said at that time.
Six churches were targeted in the acts on Saturday and on Monday. The vandal broke windows and doors at some of the churches. Hand-written messages expressing anti-gay and anti-religious views were found at four of the churches.
Jef Olson, pastor at Buffalo United Methodist Church, said church staff did not find any hateful messages, but on Monday one of the church's stained glass windows was broken and a rock found nearby.
"The end result is you have to clean up somebody's mess. And so I feel sad that our congregations have to go through this," Olson said. "But I also feel sad that for whoever did this, that this is the only way they have to get attention."
Olson said it isn't clear what kind of statement the individual responsible was trying to make. He says it will cost the church $1,000 to fix the window.
Weinzetl said many have asked whether the actions were related to the marriage amendment which will be decided in the November election, but he said the amendment wasn't referenced in the writings.
"I don't want to speculate as to what the person's motivations were," he said. "Quite frankly, my hope is once we identify the person involved, I'm hoping they're going to tell us."
Elizabeth Dunbar is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.