San Francisco police are investigating vandalism at a church in the city’s Bayview District -- an incident involving extensive damage to the building's interior -- as a hate crime.
The incident took place at St. Paul’s Tabernacle Baptist Church on Oakdale Avenue last Friday.
Racial and homophobic epithets -- along with satanic references -- were sprayed along the walls of the church’s sanctuary and the pastor’s office, with some appearing on an exterior wall as well.
Mirrors were smashed and the church's pews soaked with bleach, according to church deacon Willie Fenroy.
“Who could have done this to us? Why us?” Fenroy said he wondered when he first saw the damage. “Because you got eight other churches in the surroundings, and we the only ones that got hit that day.”
Fenroy said the vandals must have entered through the church’s back doors, which were found broken and have since been replaced.
Despite the incident, Sunday services were held at St. Paul’s, with forgiveness as the theme.
San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said Tuesday the St. Paul's incident was the fifth in the past month that the department is investigating as a possible hate crime.
He said police are canvassing neighborhood surveillance cameras for possible leads or witnesses, but have no suspects yet. Anyone with information on the St. Paul's incident can call in an anonymous tip at (415) 575-4444, text a tip to TIP411 with "SFPD" at the beginning of the message, or contact investigators directly at (415) 553-1133.
Michael G. Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, said he was shocked by the incident.
"It horrifies not only the parish itself -- which feels the direct violation -- but it's something that we all share in," Pappas said.