North Port church falls victim to hate crime

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NORTH PORT, FLA. -  Police in North Port are investigating what they are labeling as a hate crime at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church on South Sumter Boulevard.

In recent weeks, someone has knocked over porta potties in the church parking lot, and then flooded that parking lot with water.  The person(s) responsible is also accused of leaving feces in not only a bible and the church mailbox, but on the door at the front entrance.

Pastor Rafael Quiles says the person made an image of the cross on the door using the feces.  "It's pretty ugly," Quiles said.

Police say they are working on an operations plan so they can find out who is responsible.

"This is not something we would expect from the citizens in North Port," said Captain Anthony Sirianni with the North Port Police Department.

Police say they suspects may be kids or adults.  "There is no demographic that I would feel comfortable to point to at this point," said Sirianni.

Quiles suspects it could be adults.  "It seemed like it was well organized and well thought out," Quiles said.

This is not the first time the church is facing adversity. In December 2010, a man set fire to its fellowship hall. That man is now in prison in Pennsylvania, according to Quiles.  The fellowship hall is in the process of being rebuilt. That's where the porta potties come in to play. They are located near the construction zone.

"I would say to the people responsible that the lord loves them. Regardless of their sensibility about what they believe or don't believe, or who they hate, let's talk about it. Give us an opportunity to have a dialog with them," Quiles said.

If you have any information on the crimes, you are asked to call the North Port Police Department at (941) 429-7300 or Sarasota County Crime Stoppers at 366-TIPS.