Maple Grove Police have identified a male individual believed to be the suspect in several vandalism reports at Pilgrims United Church of Christ, 8801 Rice Lake Road.
Most recently, officers responded to the scene around 9:50 a.m. Sunday, July 28, and spoke to a reporting party who advised that several eggs were thrown at the front door and messages referencing homosexuality were written on the siding.
The members of Pilgrims United Church of Christ have been an “Open and Affirming” congregation since the mid 1990’s according to its website. The website goes on to say that the congregation has publicly and intentionally declared that those of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions welcome in its full life and ministry of the church.
The suspect was at the church for about 5 minutes total around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, July 28.
Two similar incidents have been reported at this location June 30 and June 2. Maple Grove Police believe the same suspect is involved in all three incidents, but needs to identify the suspect in surveillance video to be sure. The Maple Grove Police Department is actively investigating these cases and is looking for the public’s health in identifying and locating the suspect.
Maple Grove Police Captain Keith Terlinden said the department is investigating the incident because there were terms of sexuality involved in the writing on the church. “The words and terminology used on the church itself, lead us to believe that is a bias-motivated crime based on sexual orientation,” he added.
He said the department was able to obtain some video of the suspect approaching the building in a wheelchair. Police are unsure if the suspect is confined to wheelchair.
“We have been working directly with church throughout this entire process,” Capt. Terlinden said. “We met with some of their staff this morning to see if they were of who it might be. At this point, it does not appear that the individual that is responsible for this damage is someone that is associated with church itself.”
The Maple Grove Police Department put up a city camera to help catch the suspect. He said the camera is used as a tool in reoccurring cases of crimes.
Capt. Terlinden added he did not believe there was any other direct contact made with the church or church pastor referencing homosexuality from the suspect.
“Maple Grove does everything within our police department capabilities to make sure crime in general doesn’t happen,” he added. “It’s our goal not to have bias motivated crime in particular. For the city itself we have been a community that is relative free of bias motivated crime. We want to keep it that way.”
He said the suspect was found and talked to. Capt. Terlinden added the suspect has not be formally charged at this point, so his name has not been released.