UPDATE @ 4 p.m. (Oct. 10):
Dayton police are hoping newly released surveillance video might help capture two people who damaged several statues last week at the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
“Right now we need help from the community just to try to identify these folks, so that we can latch onto them, get them in here , and interview them to see why this transpired,” Dayton police Sgt. Matt Beavers said in an interview Tuesday.
Beavers acknowledged the quality of the video is not perfect, but he hopes something about the suspects shown in the video leads to tips from the public.
“We want to get this footage out to the public to see if they recognize the bikes, recognize the individuals from the clothing, the way they walk, maybe from their mannerisms, whatever it may be. And can give us some phone calls, and let us know who we need to be talking to, to get this case solved,” Beavers said.
Beavers said the subjects are believed to be in their late teens to early 20s and arrived to the church on bikes around 1:13 a.m. on Oct. 4. The subjects spent several minutes damaging the smaller statues before leaving the area for about seven minutes. The two returned and proceeded to damage the larger statues, Beavers said.
Police have taken reports of vehicle thefts in the neighborhood, but Beavers said none of the crimes were as serious as the damage to the church.
“Nothing to this magnitude,” Beavers said when asked about the other crimes in the neighborhood. “This is felony level vandalism due to the cost of the damage done. The amount of monetary loss is terrible, but you’re also talking about something that’s been there for decades.”
Police continue to search for additional video and tips from neighboring businesses and homes.
Community members at the church have told this news outlet they plan to rebuild the shrine, called Our Lady of Belmont. The four broken statues are believed to be damaged beyond repair, but the church will try to repair them as much as possible.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Dayton police at 937-333-2677.
FIRST REPORT (Oct. 4)
Several statues outside the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church were destroyed and the parish believes they are beyond repair.
“There’s an investigation going on. This is not the first time the shrine has been vandalized,” said the Rev. Satish Joseph, pastor at the church, located at 2300 South Smithville Road.
Four of the statues that surround the Virgin Mary statue at the church were knocked from their bases and shattered on the ground.
“Hate and vandalism and doing harm to others is certainly contrary to way of Jesus,” Joseph said.
The statues have been vandalized several other times in the past, including in October 2010, when a juvenile hanging on the statue was said to have broken off the arms and hands of the Virgin Mary statue. In 2011, someone used red spray paint to deface the statues, according to Dayton police reports.
Kathy Carter has attended services at Immaculate Conception since she was a child and teaches at the school now. She was brought to tears when she saw the damage Wednesday morning.
“These people gave us cracks in our hearts,” Carter said. “Not only did they hurt the statues, but they hurt us.”
Joseph said police have been contacted and the parish is reviewing surveillance video from outside the church to see if any of the criminal acts were captured on camera.
Late Wednesday morning, students from the Immaculate Conception school gathered around the damage and prayed along with Joseph.
“We’re here to pray for those who have such strong feelings in their heart, especially for this hate and destruction,” Joseph said. “It’s important for our children to feel that in these moments we don’t repay evil with evil, anger with anger.”
The damaged statues were designed by Walter Driesbach, of Cincinnati, according to the parish’s website.
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