Feb 28, 2011 8:42 PM by Carolyn Cerda

Church Leaders React to Vandalism Arrest

A black man is being charged with hate crimes for vandalizing two predominately black churches in Lafayette. The first incident happened on February 13th at St. James the Baptist Church on Plum St. The second, happened Saturday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School, which is on Twelfth St. just blocks away from St. James.

Saturday night, 33 year old Brian Crimiel was arrested and charged with Hate Crimes, Obstruction of Justice, Criminal Damage to Property with Graffiti, Possession of Marijuana, and Felon in Possession of a Firearm in connection with the church damages. Monday, the church leaders spoke with KATC about the arrest.

"I was shocked for a moment, angered," said Father Thomas James, with Immaculate Heart. "It's sad, sickening, despicable."

"I was surprised, then relieved," said Pastor Donald Washington, with St. James. "This can help us move on as we've been trying to do for the past two weeks."

Both men say that although the suspect is a black man accused of vandalizing black churches, the crime itself should be the focus. They say they're reaction would have been the same for any person who desecrated a sacred place.

"I would pray for him, that that he may find meaning in his life," said Father James. "And, what was interesting, he probably needs church and that's what he's desecrating."

"He has some deep rooted issues that I hope he can resolve," said Pastor Washington. "I think that is an inner problem that he has. He had those thoughts in his mind that that's how others look upon him."

The say no matter who is to blame, the crime still caused thousands of dollars of damage. The derogatory words were just as hurtful, coming from anyone. And, they say, the race of the criminal does not matter. They would both have still forgiven that person and prayed for them to get help.

Pastor Washington and Father James are hoping the arrest will help their congregations put the incidents behind them. They also hope that if any positive comes of this, that it would be that it opens a door to get people talking about racism in an intelligent conversation.

The crimes are still being investigated. As for Crimiel, he's had a run in with the law before. In 2007, he was arrested for killing his then girlfriend's 8 month old baby girl. He was initially charged with first degree murder. But, in 2008 he pleaded no contest to an amended charge of negligent homicide. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but was released in February of 2009.



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