Damages estimated near $50,000
Vandals caused the Sunday service at Lake City Assembly of God in Medical Lake to be put on hold, after doing extensive damage throughout the church and its property.
The break-in, which took place between Saturday, Jan. 12, and Sunday morning, Jan. 13, caused around $50,000 in damage to the church. Pastor Nick Hawkins said janitors arrived early Sunday to find that a large potted plant outside the building had been thrown through the front glass door.
From there, a string of garbage, glass and damage stretched throughout the church.
Hawkins said the vandals broke into a cabinet that contained votive candles and threw them all across the sanctuary. The glass containers broke into tiny pieces, falling in pews and small shards that still remain in the carpet.
“We’ve vacuumed four or five times and we’re still finding glass shards,” Hawkins said.
The list of damage and stolen items is seemingly endless.
Sound equipment for the church’s worship service was damaged. Soda was poured over music equipment. Candy vending machines were broken into. A soda machine was opened by using a shovel. Deadbolt-locked doors were kicked off their hinges. Electronics, like a DVD player, were stolen. A secondary safe was broken into. Fire retardant was sprayed throughout rooms and eventually went through the ventilation system throughout the building.
“These guys were in here for hours,” Hawkins said.
Most disturbing were graffiti messages spray-painted on walls inside classrooms. Hawkins said those were quickly cleaned up and the walls repainted before much of the cleanup work began.
“Those were things we didn’t want them to see,” Hawkins said.
Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the crime Sunday morning, taking evidence samples into their possession. A forensics team was also called in to perform an investigation. The criminals left behind candy wrappers and soda cans throughout the 30,000 square feet of the property, and also left a two-block trail of strewn wrappers on the ground after they left.
Officers were dispatched at 7 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 7:55, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Craig Chamberlain. Even officers arriving at the church were stunned by the amount of damage.
“For the deputies on scene, they’re both veteran deputies and it’s the worst case of vandalism they’ve ever investigated,” he said.
As far as the reason behind the crime, many are still wondering why someone would do it in the first place.
“We don’t know what their motives were,” Hawkins said.
Church members gathered together to begin cleaning up the overnight crime, showing strength as a congregation family. Around 40 to 50 volunteers have been hard at work since the crime, painting walls, cleaning carpets and boarding up windows that were broken. The various skills in the congregation, and the time dedicated from them has made the cleanup effort a fast and efficient one.
“Volunteers have done an amazing job and are stepping up,” Hawkins said.
Until the sanctuary is completely cleaned, the church will use its gym as an alternate worship location. Volunteers were moving chairs down to the gym throughout the day, setting up for church activities later this week. The church will likely need to purchase new pews and bring in some specialists to properly clean up the fire retardant dust that filtered throughout the building. In all, it will take a few weeks to get the sanctuary in working order.
Hawkins said programs at the church will continue this week, including Boy Scouts and a prayer service Wednesday. Doors are planned to be installed by the weekend, and other professional work will take a bit longer, but most of the cleanup will be finished this week.
Despite the break-in, the church is practicing its own message by continuing to be good to the city’s residents. For Hawkins, the
“Maybe somebody needs to reach out to that person before they do something like this,” he said. “People are our business.”
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.