A 19-year-old man was arrested Wednesday and charged with the vandalism and burglary of Valley Memorial Baptist Church after sending photos of the damage to a woman on Facebook, according to Chattanooga police and the arrest affidavit.
Garrett Michael Belanger is accused of breaking into the small church on Browns Ferry Road and causing extensive damage sometime Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
He is charged with burglary, felony vandalism over $100,000 and theft over $1,000.
Belanger was discovered after sending photos of the damage to an ex-girlfriend on Facebook, according to the affidavit. He sent the woman photos of himself in a Spiderman costume and posing with damage inside the church, as well as a map with circles drawn around the Valley Memorial Baptist Church and his house. The affidavit states he then disclosed plans to vandalize another church next week. The woman’s father then reported the messages to police.
The damage at the church seemed to suggest that the attacker used an ax or hatchet to chop through furniture, doors and walls. The suspect pulled a urinal off a wall and tore a water fountain apart. Several walls had deep holes in them, and no room in the church was left untouched — desks were ripped apart in the children’s room, pews overturned in the sanctuary, hallways were flooded. Hymnals were torn apart and windows were crushed. Several microphones and guitars were also stolen from the church.
Pastor Horace Crawford estimated the damage could cost as much as $100,000 to repair and said he was bewildered as to why anyone would vandalize the church.
Police have not yet released a motive for the attack. Belanger is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County General Sessions Court on Nov. 25.
SOURCE: Shelly Bradbury and Hannah Smith
Times Free Press