Extreme church vandalism may qualify as hate crime


"Based on some of the language that was used, we believe it might meet the criteria, specifically as a hate crime," Santa Cruz Police Department spokesman Zach Friend said.

Santa Cruz police got the call to come to Holy Cross Catholic Church just before 7 a.m. on Sunday.

When they got there, they saw what they're describing as an unbelievable amount of vandalism and language that seemed to target the church and Catholicism as a whole.

"We just view the individual or individuals as a coward. I mean to do this under the cloak of night. If you've got something to say, do it in an appropriate manner, don't do it in this way," Friend said.

Father Joe Occhiuto leads the church. He says that seeing the damage was devastating.

Among the items most severely damaged was a baptismal font from 1791. It was given to the church when it was established. It weighs more than 400 pounds. Now, it's in pieces.

"It's just one more burden. It's an economically difficult time," Father Occhiuto said.

But amid all the destruction, there is good news. The minute parishioners heard about the vandalism, Father Occhiuto started getting calls of offers to help.

"This is not going to set us back. We've been here for over 200 years. We're going to be here for another 200," he said.

Father Occhiuto and the parishioners have cleaned up most of the damage. The church is under 24-hour surveillance and that is helping the police with their investigation

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