Four juveniles arrested in historic Black church vandalism

By The Associated Press

HOLT'S SUMMIT, Mo. – Four juveniles have been arrested in the vandalism of an historic Black church in central Missouri, officials said Thursday.

Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said the suspects, aged 14 to 16, were arrested Wednesday and are being detained at a juvenile center in Columbia. They are charged in vandalism at the Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Holt's Summit last week. 

He said the four male teens, from Holts Summit and Jefferson City, are being detained on felony charges of property damage and burglary but more charges could be added, KRCG reported. Investigators also continue to work to determine if more people were involved.

Evidence currently doesn't support a hate crime charge but that could change, Chism said. The FBI has been notified and is prepared to join the investigation if new evidence suggests the vandalism was a hate crime.

"Churches have been prone to burglary and theft I can definitely attest that this church has had more reports than what we see with other churches across the county," he said.

Mt. Vernon was established by slaves in the early 1800s and later rebuilt in 1869. Both the historic church building and wone completed in the early 2000 were vandalized.