Shocking vandalism at inclusive NJ church not a bias crime, officials say
⛪ A 22-year-old man is charged with vandalizing an inclusive church sign
⛪ The incident came hours after the church put up Pride Month flags
⛪ Prosecutors do not consider it a bias incident
MORRISTOWN — Prosecutors are not treating vandalism at an Episcopal parish that had just put up its Pride Month flags as a bias incident.
Klenti Allsuhi, 22, of Clifton turned himself in at Morristown police headquarters on Tuesday, according to the Morris County Prosecutor's Office. He was released on a summons.
Allsuhi is charged with third-degree criminal mischief for breaking the sign valued at around $15,000 that was next to over a dozen flags with rainbow colors, officials said. Investigators also looked into the incident as a possible bias crime but prosecutors said that "the evidence established an intent only to damage property."
"Based on our investigation, we do not believe this defendant demonstrated conduct that is actionable but not indicative of a hate-based crime," Morris County Prosecutor Robert Carroll said.
The lawn sign at the Church of the Redeemer on South Street, which reads 'All are welcome,' was broken around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, according to prosecutors. The sign includes various groups including straight, gay, transgender, zen, in recovery, divorced, seniors, conservatives, liberals and nuns.
Pride Month flags go up at the Episcopal church every year but they went up earlier this year to honor a lesbian member of the congregation who had recently passed, Rev. Cynthia Black told ABC 7. Black said they put up the flags the evening of May 19 for the member's grieving widow.
While the vandalism occurred hours after the flags went up, investigators found that it was just one of several acts of destruction.
Allsuhi was part of a group that was seen "hitting and/or damaging multiple signs" as they walked through the area, according to the prosecutor's office.
Authorities said that he turned himself in after seeing surveillance images released by police.