Police investigating possible hate crime after local church targeted by vandals

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Remnants of shattered glass are what remain after the East Fresno Baptist Church was the target of a possible hate crime Saturday night.

Pastor John Crabtree is still in disbelief after staff arrived Sunday morning to find damage in and around their sanctuary. "We opened the door, saw the flag was burnt into the carpet. It was basically a mass of black ash," he says.

Crabtree adds, "the odd part about it, is they had a fire extinguisher and it appears that they put it out."

Residue from the extinguisher covered the carpet, pulpit, and organ.

Also bizarre... The collection plate money could be found scattered all over the room and the portable electronics went untouched. The vandal damaged the nursery as well, but not before leaving something behind. Pastor John says, "they dropped a t-shirt and a black glove."

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says, "there was a Christian flag that was burnt and vandalism did occur to the church. This is potentially a hate crime."

He says "we do know there are homeless individuals that congregate in that area and we do know that the day before one of those individuals was asked to leave."

Although the motive is under investigation they'll treat it as a hate crime until proven otherwise.

The church located on Clovis and Tulare Avenues have served the area since the 60's. And though services are temporarily moved, Pastor John hopes both the congregation and community heed an important message, "don't be upset. Don't be scared. Don't be hurt. Let's be concerned for the individuals who did this."
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