The vandalism at five suburban New Jersey churches has been determined not to be an act of racial terror but that of a man who lived in the area and acted alone, according to authorities.
“As a result of the investigation, no evidence was obtained that would indicate this was a bias incident which legally requires purpose to intimidate a person or group based upon their protected class,” said Fredric Knapp, the Morris County prosecutor, on Saturday.
Police arrested Zuri Towns, 45, and charged him with five counts of criminal mischief on Sunday evening, according to the Daily Record. Police say he attended one of the churches as a child.
Police had been investigating the vandalism as possible bias crimes because the vandalized churches—the Church of God in Christ for All Saints, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Calvary Baptist Church and Union Baptist Church—have majority-black congregations.
However, the focus shifted after a surveillance video outside Church of God in Christ for All Saints showed a man, later identified by police as Towns, throwing a rock against a window.
Towns allegedly threw a brick through a stained-glass window and broke or damaged signs outside the other churches.
Immediately after the vandalism, a pastor of one of the churches said that the defilement caused alarm.
“We’re concerned about the safety of our members. … Someone targeted African American churches, and went out of their way to do it,” said Pastor Sidney Williams Jr. of Bethel AME Church to Morristown Green.
Given the recent gun attack in Texas that killed 26 and, before that, the murder of black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.—because they were black—there is certainly evidence for concern.
No information on Towns’ race was released with the reports, but with a name like Zuri, he might be black.