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Man Arrested for Vandalizing Washington Church, Assaulting Church Employee

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Bellevue, Washington police arrested a 31-year-old man Tuesday after he allegedly vandalized a church building, attacked a church employee, and hit a police car with a backpack crammed full of paint cans. 

The man allegedly destroyed one entrance to a building, shattered a door in the parish hall, and spray-painted more than a dozen places on walls throughout the church's campus with messages such as "liar," "religion of hate," and "go to your fake Hell."

KCPQ-TV reports the suspect was captured on video repeatedly throwing a rock at a glass door inside a pastoral office, before kicking and punching in the glass. 

The outlet reported a woman inside the building who was praying, tried to talk to the man, before locking herself inside as he continued to spray-paint the rock wall outside the building.

A church employee had a rock thrown at him and was spray-painted across the face after he tried to stop the suspect. However, the employee succeeded in chasing the man away. 

The suspect later surrendered to police, but not before swinging his backpack full of paint cans and hitting a police car with it. 

Bellevue Police Captain Darryl McKinney told KCPQ that the damage would fall under a hate crime statute. The man will also face additional charges for assaulting the church's staff member.

Father Gary Zender, the church's pastor, told the outlet it was hard to say if the attack was related to the Supreme Court's recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. But he noted another church in Renton, Washington sustained similar damage over the weekend. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has tracked at least 143 incidents of vandalism at Catholic sites in the U.S. since May 2020. The incidents have occurred across 36 states and Washington, D.C.

Zender said his first priority was making sure his employee was OK and then repairing the damage to the church building. 

"People want the church to be a safe place, that's what we try to consistently do," Zender told KCPQ. "It doesn't feel safe for some folks right now. We just need to keep looking to Jesus and try to offer the ministry of healing the best way we can."

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