Odenton church is vandalized three suspects are arrested

July 22, 1996|By Andrea Siegel | Andrea Siegel,SUN STAFF

Three men have been arrested and charged with vandalizing St. John's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Odenton, a black congregation, yesterday.

"There was no evidence at the scene to indicate this was a racial incident," said Jeff Kelly, Anne Arundel County police spokesman. "There is no evidence to indicate that they knew this was a black church, just that it was a church."

He said he could not release information about a motive for the vandalism.

St. John's, a turn-of-the-century structure tucked away on Conway Road, was broken into about 2: 30 a.m., police reported. A basement door and jamb were broken, along with chairs and tables inside. One wall had a large hole punched in it.

Three suspects were arrested minutes later about two miles from the church.

Police identified the suspects as Adam Sisk, 20, and Shane Sisk, 25, both of the 14300 block of Mount Oak Road, Mitchellville; and Kirk Rogers, 21, of the 400 block of Lankford Road, Harwood. They were charged with breaking and entering and destruction of property. A District Court commissioner set bail at $15,000 each. They were sent to the county jail in lieu of bail yesterday afternoon.

Church officials said off-and-on vandalism of the secluded building had ended about four years ago, after they worked with police to improve security. They said they had no reason to believe that yesterday's vandalism was inspired by the recent wave of suspicious fires at black churches in the South, but were uneasy.

"I don't know," said the pastor, the Rev. Samuel Whittaker. "I just hope it isn't."

Among newer security measures is a network of interior locks. The vandals broke into a kitchen area through the basement door, but the locks prevented them from reaching the sanctuary, said Donald Mackall, trustee chairman.

The 127-year-old congregation has 120 members, most of whom knew nothing about the damage until services yesterday. Police estimated the damage at $500, but church officials said they expected it would be at least twice that.

Pub Date: 7/22/96

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