CHEROKEE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A case of vandalism that occurred over the weekend is being investigated at a Cherokee County church that involved what the pastor believes to be a burnt cross on the property.
According to St. Thomas AME Church Pastor Billy Burton, a church member showed up Sunday morning to unlock the building located off of State Highway 21 west of Alto and noticed the damage.
In a video of the pastor shot on his cell phone, water can be heard and seen flowing from the busted water line down the grass hill the church sits on. A window was also busted out with the rock that landed inside just feet away from the sanctuary entrance. The first person to find the damage was church member Larry Jenkins.
"I got here and heard a noise but wasn't sure what it was," Jenkins said. "I went inside, and I saw the rock through the window. I then went on the side and saw the water flowing and the burnt limbs. I didn't know if someone was meddling or not."
Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said that they are not currently investigating the incident as a hate crime. He said the logs were laid down to start a fire, and they did look like a cross, but he wasn't positive that was the intention. He said they were set up far from the church, so it doesn't appear the person was trying to burn the church down.
The church was founded in 1905 and had their first building built in 1909. Burton said they had church service as normal on Sunday morning and that they prayed for the individuals that did this. He also hopes that our country can stop being divisive and come together.
"We're not surprised of these type things happening in the world," Burton said. "It's just when they happen in their own church it brings it full circle. Apparently the wrong message is being spread, rather than love. It just seems so bad over the past month with the new administration. I am not blaming the president. I am just saying recent decisions that are being made, it is affecting the country."
As the church moves on, Jenkins is looking to prayer to have a soft heart.
"It makes you want to just pray for people that does stuff like this and let them know that God still loves them just as well as they are doing wrong," Jenkins said.
Campbell said the sheriff's office has spoken to a person of interest but are still urging anyone with any information to call the office.