Sadly, gun violence is on the rise, particularly in the United States, where mass shootings are now a daily occurrence. The lack of proper gun control is at the center of a heated controversy, in a country very much conflicted with the pros and cons of gun ownership. Countries with more controlled laws surrounding arms do not have anywhere close to the same statistics when it comes to gun violence, so there is definitely a correlation.
Although these events happen particularly in the United States, the rest of the world is not exempt from violent crimes. There has been a rise of violent events in places of worship in the past decade or so, with religious persecution being only part of the equation. Are churches and mosques being targeted because the attackers are violently opposed to their beliefs, or are these events just acts of senseless violence? Whatever the reason, these tragedies were all absolutely horrendous and should have never transpired. Let’s see if we can find some commonalities in the following collection. Here are the most notable 15 Crimes That Happened In Churches.
15. Church Murder Of Terri Leann Bevers
In April, 2016, a mysterious murder was committed inside a church in the small town of Midlothian, Texas. Terri Leann Bevers a 45-year-old fitness instructor who was found inside the Creekside Church of Christ by a participant of an upcoming fitness boot camp. Bevers was allegedly on the church grounds setting up for the event, which was scheduled for later that morning. Surveillance footage showed a man dressed like a police officer entering the church. Police did not immediately release the details surrounding the murder, nor were any witnesses named. Her father-in-law was later listed as a suspect, after it was reported that he had brought blood-stained clothing in to a local dry cleaner’s just days after the murder. No one has been officially charged with her murder, and a reward is being issued for any information the public might have.
14. Burnette Chapel Church Shooting
On Sunday, September 24, 2017, 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson stormed into the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, in Antioch, Tennessee, and opened fire on those gathered for church service. The masked man killed 39-year-old Melanie Smith outside of the church, as she walked to her vehicle in the church parking lot. He then entered the building where he wounded 7 more people. A brave churchgoer tackled the perpetrator, and ended up in a struggle to knock the gun out of his hands. During the chaotic struggle, Samson shot himself in the chest, probably unintentionally. While the police were on their way to the scene of the crime, another man went to his car to retrieve his own weapon and made sure the assailant didn’t flee. Most of the injured were senior citizens. The attacker is being held without bond until he is formally sentenced.
13. Kentucky Church Killing
In August, 2017, 70 year-old Ruthie Carolyn New was killed at the activity center of the Denham Street Baptist Church in Somerset, Kentucky. The victim was the widow of the church’s former pastor and worked as a custodian of the building. She was at the church doing various chores when 41-year-old Dwight Mitchell Bell entered the building, robbed the church, and killed her. Details later emerged that Bell, who was homeless, entered the church, where New gave him something to eat and offered him support. Instead of accepting her good will, he killed her, and stole her purse and car. The extremely troubled man was previously incarcerated for killing his father and shooting his girlfriend. He was paroled in 2005, after serving only 6 years for manslaughter, but would be arrested once again for violating his parole terms. It’s unlikely that he will be set free after this horrific incident.
12. Stabbing In Birmingham Church
A 46-year-old man was arrested on Sunday, September 17, 2017 after attacking and injuring three people at the New Jerusalem Apostolic Church in Birmingham, U.K. Approximately 150 worshippers were present when the man charged through the church’s front doors, brandishing a large kitchen knife. Two people who attempted to keep him contained were injured. The third injured person was allegedly known to the assailant, and the attack might’ve been planned. None of the injuries were life threatening, however, one of the attacked was treated at a local hospital. The man was held down by various members of the congregation while the police made their way to the scene. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
11. Kentucky Church Stabbing
On August 14, 2016, a 21-year-old man was taken into custody for stabbing his father during a church service at the Hilvue Heights Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The father-and-son duo hailed from Arkansas and had just entered Kentucky the day before, according to state border control authorities. The perpetrator, Ethan Buckley, had been attacked at his workplace by a disgruntled co-worker the week before. He took to Facebook to complain about the lack of safety in public and how unfair it was to be attacked while unprovoked. The ensuing stabbing would come as quite a contrast to those statements. He cooperated with police investigators and told them that he was moved by the religious message and wanted to stab and kill his father quickly and painlessly. His father survived the brutal attack.
10. Serbian Orthodox Church Fire In Manhattan
A massive fire erupted at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St.Sava on West 25th Street in Manhattan, on May 1, 2016. The fire required roughly 170 firefighters to put out, and the efforts went late into the evening. Although no one was reported seriously injured, there were accounts of smoke inhalation and minor burns, mainly affecting the responders who fought to put out the blaze. Sadly, the fire happened during the Orthodox Easter holiday. Luckily, the Easter service had finished, and an estimated 700 attendants of the mass had already left the premises when the fire broke out. The church dated back to 1855 and was an important historical venue for American Serbs, who maintained a sense of their community and culture within the church walls. The fire was allegedly accidental, involving candles that were not properly extinguished, but many people speculated there was criminal intent.
9. Sutherland Springs Church Shooting
On November 5, 2017, the deadliest mass shooting at a place of worship in the United States transpired at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The small church was finishing up their Sunday service when 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley stormed into the building and shot almost every person inside. By the time he ran out of the church, 26 people were dead, and another 20 were seriously injured. A high-speed chase ensued, with members of the church and police officers pursuing his car, until he eventual crashed into a ditch. Kelley was dead when they reached his car, with self-inflicted gunshots to the head. The fifth-deadliest mass shooting in United States history rocked the country and reinforced that something needs to be done about gun control.
8. Church Burglarized In El Dorado Springs
A church in El Dorado Springs, close to Springfield, Montana, was burglarized in late November, 2017. Strangely enough, the church was not damaged or torn up, but all of their electronics were taken. A church is not the first place you would think of if you wanted to steal a couple of laptops, so the perpetrators were probably very aware of what accessories were inside. The pastor, visibly upset, stated that he suspected that the responsible person or persons probably attended the church, giving them an insider’s view of what was going on inside. All in all, the thieves got away with two laptops, a tablet, two hard drives, and a microphone. The pastor continued to state that the acquisition of the technology took quite a few years, as they are a small church, and relied on donations from parishioners to buy the technology.
7. Omaha Church Assault And Robbery
In August, 2015, two suspects were arrested in the aftermath of a robbery and assault inside an Omaha church. Wayman Clark attacked a 76-year-old woman in St.Cecilia’s Cathedral. Video surveillance shows the woman walking up to a church board where she was collecting pamphlets, only to be blindsided by two men. One of them punched her violently in the head, which caused her to fall and cut herself. The poor woman was sent to the hospital for treatment after the aggressive attack. Clark’s mother, Charlean, was later arrested for harboring a fugitive. Clark was well-known to police, and the local gang unit was able to identify him on the surveillance video, leading to the warrant for his arrest.
6. Lakewood Church Theft
The Lakewood Church in Houston is the largest congregation in the country. Led by famed TV personality/pastor Joel Osteen, the church seats close to 17,000, with an estimated 40,000 members. The megachurch is filled with expensive electronics, large viewing screens, and high-tech microphones. In March of 2014, a major theft left churchgoers shocked and saddened. Close to $600,000 worth of cash and checks were stolen from a safe, as well as credit card numbers and private information. The thieves also got away with some of the electronic equipment. Sadly, because the church is such a large-scale operation, they are prime targets for this type of theft. Knowing the sheer amount of members they have, it’s clear they are sitting on a lot of money and equipment.
5. Charleston Church Shooting
The Charleston church shooting was a horrific mass shooting that occurred on June 17, 2015. At 21 years old. Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, stormed into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, during church service. Armed with a Glock handgun, Roof opened fire on the people inside the church, and killed 9 people, including the pastor. He was stopped and arrested the next morning. Roof, who never denied his crime, was sentenced to death on January 10, 2017. The story quickly attracted national and international outrage, as the conversation about racism and gun violence in America was once again brought to the forefront of politics. Prior to the 2017 Sutherland Springs attack, this was the largest mass shooting at an American place of worship.
4. Stabbing At South Carolina Church
A 65-year-old man was arrested and charged with attempted murder after a stabbing incident at a South Carolina church. On October 23, 2016, Billy Lewis attacked a 60-year-old man seated in front of him during Sunday service at the St Paul A.M.E Church Shaw. What was even stranger, after Lewis was arrested, he claimed his reason for attacking the man in front of him was because he believed that the man had put a curse on his family. . After undergoing a psychological screening, Lewis was deemed mentally ill and denied bail. The attacked man was airlifted to a hospital, but his injuries were not life-threatening, and he made a full recovery.
3. Deadly Church Stabbing In Maryland
On Sunday, July 26, 2015, a homeless man from Virginia was involved in a deadly attack at a church retreat center. Song Su Kim stabbed a couple who were travelling to the United States as missionaries at the center, fatally wounding the husband and seriously injuring the wife. The incident took place at the Anna Prayer Mountain Church Retreat Center, which is located in a remote, wooded area some 40 miles from Washington, D.C. The couple was allegedly working as chefs in the kitchen, when Kim attacked them, stabbing the man 13 times and his wife 4 times. Kim’s mother issued a statement confirming that her son suffers from bipolar disorder and that she often felt unsafe in his company. He was facing multiple charges when arrested, including first degree murder.
2. North Carolina Church Stabbing
A fatal stabbing incident at the Swain County’s Smokemont Baptist Church resulted in an arrest and conviction. Forrest Hill, 22, was charged with the first degree murder of Tyler Gaddis, on March 29, 2015. The altercation commenced outside of the church, when the two men began to argue, allegedly about a love triangle they were both involved in. Witnesses said that Hill stabbed Gaddis repeatedly, while screaming and yelling. The dramatic scene happened in the mountain area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and became a federal case due to the location of the crime. Details later emerged that the crime had been premeditated, once Hill found out that Gaddis was involved with his girlfriend. He was stabbed a total of 19 times.
1. Des Moines Deacon Stabbing
In February, 2017, 89-year-old church deacon Joseph Coan was attacked at St. Augustine’s Church in Des Moines, Iowa. The strange and unprecedented attack involved a 31-year-old female perpetrator, Ashley Eckhart. When police and medics arrived at the scene, she had fled on foot and managed to get almost 1 km away from the church. A brief police search ensued and she was located and arrested. Coan was transported to the hospital where he was treated for several lacerations to his hands and face. The injuries reported were not life threatening. Eckhart was booked in with a willful injury charge. Her mental state was being determined at the time of her booking to establish whether she was suffering from any type of mental instability or illness at the time of the violent attack.
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