Police in Toledo, Ohio are investigating an arson attack on Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral involving an attempted fire and a spray-painted message on the outer walls reading “Jesus is Black.”
A man whom police identified as a suspect in the vandalism attack fatally shot a Toledo police officer Monday afternoon during a standoff at his home, police say.
Suspect Christopher Harris shot and killed 24-year-old Officer Brandon Stalker as Stalker attempted to arrest Harris, local media reported. Stalker leaves behind a fiancee and a child.
Bishop Daniel Thomas of Toledo on Tuesday afternoon issued a statement expressing “profound sorrow” at the officer’s death.
“Together with all people of good will, I am deeply grateful for the selfless generosity of the men and women in uniform who daily risk their own lives to protect and serve us all. Together, may we all commit ourselves to increased prayer and action to bring about an end to violence and all its underlying causes,” Thomas wrote.
“May Officer Brandon Stalker rest in the arms of our loving Father.”
The initial vandalism incident, which left an estimated $5,000 in damage, happened shortly before 2:30 am Jan. 18, WTOL11 reported. A neighbor said he saw a lone man outside the church, and called the police when he saw the fire.
According to WTOL11, fire crews on the scene did not find active flames, but did find evidence of a flash fire at the front entry doors which had extinguished itself. The fire damage was confined to the outer doors and trim.
The Diocese of Toledo in a Jan. 19 statement issued before media reports of the shooting thanked first responders and encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact the Toledo Police Department.
“We are alarmed and heartsick by what occurred at the mother church of the Diocese of Toledo, a sacred building, a house of worship and an historical, architectural and spiritual treasure,” the statement read.
“As the damage to the Cathedral is assessed, there is an ongoing investigation to determine whether the acts were religious, racial or ethnic in nature and we will continue to cooperate with authorities…Together with all Catholics, Christians and people of faith we denounce any such acts of vandalism.”
Several incidents of racially-motivated graffiti left on church buildings have been reported throughout the United States since last summer, when protests erupted throughout the country in response to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on June 1, 2020 was tagged with various graffiti, including profanities, “No justice, no peace,” and “BLM” (Black Lives Matter).” The name of George Floyd, a black man killed by police in May 2020, was also written on the stairs outside the cathedral.
The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver was defaced with graffiti during a racially-charged protest the same day, with rioters spray-painting slogans such as “GOD IS DEAD” and “PEDOFILES” [sic] on the church’s exterior.
St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon, California on Sept. 25, 2020 was defaced with graffiti depicting “pentagrams, upside down crosses, white power, swastikas,” as well as slogans such as “Biden 2020,” and “BLM”.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was again targeted Jan. 1 by protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter Brooklyn and Justice for George, the New York Post reported. Police found the phrase “ACAB,” a derogatory phrase aimed at police, spray painted on the church.
(SOURCE: CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY)