Hate-crime investigation after black churches in Morris County vandalized
MORRISTOWN — Police are investigating incidents of vandalism at five area churches that were reported over the weekend.
Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp said four of the churches are located in Morristown, while the fifth is in Morris Township. Knapp said the damage included a broken stained-glass window and damage to the outside signs of the churches.
The four churches in Morristown included: The Church of God in Christ for All Saints on Rowe Street, the Bethel A.M.E. Church on Spring Street, the Calvary Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Avenue, and the Union Baptist on Spring Street. The Morristown Church of Christ in Morris Township was also damaged, according to Knapp.
Pastor Sidney Williams Jr. of the Bethel A.M.E. told the Morristown Green that "we want this classified as a hate crime."
"We're concerned about the safety of our members," he said. "Someone targeted African American churches, and went out of their way to do it."
Governor-elect Phil Murphy said on Twitter that he was "disgusted" by the reports of vandalism at the churches.
"These cowardly acts will not shake our faith," he said. "They will renew our determination to come together as one NJ."
Knapp said the incidents are being investigated "as a possible Bias Crime," and said the investigation is ongoing. He encouraged anyone with information to to call his office's Bias Crimes Unit at 973-285-6200, the Morristown Police Department at 973-538-2200, or the Morris Township Police Department at 973-539-0777. The prosecutor said information can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 973-267-2255.
Churchgoers on Sunday will notice an increased police presence on Sunday, according to Knapp "to ensure the continued safety of all community members," he said. Knapp also encouraged people to stay vigilant and to call their local police departments if they see anything suspicious.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com