Gainesville, Ga., police arrested a white 16-year-old girl for an alleged plot to carry out a knife attack at a black church. A statement released from the Gainesville Police Department Tuesday confirmed that the church was targeted by the girl “based on the racial demographic of the members,” BuzzFeed reports.
The girl, whose name has not been released, was flagged to authorities after her classmates at Gainesville High alerted school counselors about a notebook containing “detailed plans to commit murder” at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. According to the Gainesville Times, police believe the girl was acting alone.
Police report she had been planning the attack for the past couple of weeks.
“She had procured some butcher knives, kitchen knives, to do the attack with and had actually scouted out the location,” Chief Jay Parrish told reporters on Tuesday. “She had written down how she wanted to do it, the best way to do it.”
Citing Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook, BuzzFeed News writes the girl had even visited the church “either to commit the attack or stake out the place, but there was no one there.”
Rev. Dr. Michelle Rizer-Pool, who leads Bethel’s congregation, told the Gainesville Times she drove to the church on Friday after finding out about the girl’s plan.
“[I] went inside it and prayed and anointed my church and asked God to put a hedge of protection around us,” Rizer-Pool said. “On Sunday, I tried to relay what was going on without a lot of emotion so that the congregants would remain calm.”
In a sign of the times, Rizer-Pool said she had previously requested active shooter training for Bethel, which recently celebrated 118 years in the community. She has already upgraded the church’s security system and reminded the church’s ushers, as the “first line of defense” to be mindful of strangers.
“You know, I’ve been preaching for a while now about being on the battlefield, being a soldier in God’s army and that if you believe that God is in charge, he won’t allow hurt or harm to come your way. One of my members told me, ‘You’ve been getting us ready.’ I guess I have.”
The girl was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder and transported to the Regional Youth Detention Center in Gainesville. Chief Parrish said there’s a chance she may be charged as an adult.