SHORELINE, Wash. — New surveillance video shows a man breaking into St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Shoreline. The video shows a man using concrete blocks to smash through the door, before he empties a fire extinguisher inside the sanctuary of the church.
It’s the third time in the past year St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church has been targeted by criminals. Last summer, someone stole a cross. In another case, someone destroyed the church’s office.
The church is still finding a way to keep serving the community, but this time it is also coping with extensive damage caused by the vandal.
“It’s deeply painful. It causes a lot of grief,” said Reverend David Marshall of St. Dunstan’s.
He said one major problem the suspect caused is that he pulled the fire alarm in the kitchen, which triggered a sprinkler system.
“We can’t get into the kitchen at all because the vandal set off the fire suppression over the stove, so the anti-grease fire system deployed chemicals all over the kitchen. It just sprayed everywhere so it’s just not safe to go in there,” Marshall said.
Surveillance video also shows the suspect blasting a fire extinguisher at chairs and an organ.
Marshall says the cleanup from the flame retardant spray and the fire extinguisher is complicated because the chemicals require special crews to come in before they can use the church again.
“The first bid we got to clean it up was $53,000,” Marshall said. “They have to vacuum it out with filters so you don’t put more of it into the air,” he said.
It means Saint Dunstan’s had to get creative to fulfill a part of its mission this week.
“We proudly call ourselves the church that feeds people,” Marshall said.
Every Tuesday, they feed anyone who needs a hot meal and deliver hundreds more to nearby homeless camps.
“Stews, roasted vegetables, beans, salad, desserts – it’s a complete meal, people really love it,” Marshall said.
And he says they have no plans to stop serving just because of the latest crime.
“Bad things happen. You know? We started this meal in 2010, we haven’t missed a Tuesday and we’re not going to miss today,” he said.
They borrowed slow cookers from people in the area and pulled together a meal without a kitchen – serving chili, bread, fruit, and handing out groceries.
As for this latest crime, Marshall says he believes he knows the suspect.
" I think it’s someone who has been to dinner with us many times. And I don’t know what happened in his mind that he felt like doing this, but it was really about what was happening in his head. It wasn’t about us. We are praying for him,” Marshall said.
The vandalism happened at about 2am on March 18. When Shoreline police arrived, the suspect was still on scene – and was arrested.
Because the case wasn’t rush filed – which is normal for crimes involving property damage – the suspect has since been released until charges are filed.
St. Dunstan’s says anyone wanting to help out can make a donation on the church’s website, which helps support its food program, or volunteer.
Cox Media Group