Priest prays for vandal after 'hate crime' causing thousands in damages, assaulting employee

The vandalism incident at the church was caught on a surveillance camera

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A Catholic priest whose Washington state church was vandalized says he is praying for the suspect who graffitied the church’s walls with messages reflecting "deep anger against the Catholic Church" and left thousands of dollars in damages. 

"This person tagged messages on our buildings about many issues, certainly deep anger against the Catholic Church, and it would seem that the SCOTUS decision on Friday was a trigger," Father Gary Zender of St. Louise Church in Bellevue told Fox News Digital on Wednesday evening. Zender did not speak with the suspect during the incident. 

Security footage at St. Louise on Tuesday shows the unnamed 31-year-old suspect smashing the church’s doors with a rock before kicking in the broken glass. Video shows him then proceeding to spray paint the walls of the church. 

The graffiti messages include: "liar," "religion of hate" and "go to your fake Hell."

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A woman was reportedly praying inside the church during the incident on Tuesday and tried to talk to the man, but soon locked herself back inside the church, Fox 13 reported. 

"We at St. Louise are very aware that people do not agree with our pro-life stance and understand the reasons why people disagree on this important topic," Zender told Fox News Digital. "We are also aware that many people are at the breaking point for many reasons and most especially since the pandemic. We are praying for this person and wish no ill on anyone."

The suspect was arrested on Tuesday after being chased off by one of the church’s employees, according to Bellevue Police Capt. Darryl McKinney. 

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"He took one of the cans of spray paint and actually spray-painted the person in the face and in the shirt and the side of the head," McKinney said of what happened when the church’s employee confronted the suspect. 

When officers located the suspect, police said he used a backpack full of spray paint cans to smash the police vehicle before turning himself in.

McKinney said that the suspect caused roughly $10,000 in damages and that the incident fits the parameters of a hate crime. 

"Some of the comments that he actually spray painted on the buildings were anti-Catholic remarks," McKinney said, according to KIRO 7. "It definitely fits the category of a hate crime."

The Bellevue Police Department did not respond to Fox News Digital’s inquiry for updates on the case. 

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"We hope and pray that all who are struggling will find the hope that they need and healing for what troubles them. We also want the person to be held accountable not out of revenge, but as a part of the healing process," Zender told Fox News Digital.

The vandalism at St. Louise follows the vandalism against other Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers following the Supreme Court's landmark decision overturning Roe V. Wade

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Another Catholic Church in Reston, Virginia, was vandalized this week with graffiti reading: "This won’t stop" and "Separation of Church + State." The incident is being investigated as arson due to smoldering mulch that was also found at the scene. 

Fox News' Stephen Sorace contributed to this article.