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4 suspects arrested for hate crime shooting at Missouri church

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Four individuals, including two minors, have been arrested and charged with shooting at a Mennonite church building in Missouri, with authorities considering the act a hate crime.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Sunday stating that four teenage suspects were taken into custody after allegedly shooting dozens of 9 mm pistol rounds at Clearview Church of Morgan County on Saturday.

Authorities responded in the early morning hours Saturday and discovered spent 9mm shell casings “and obvious damage to the church.” After further investigation, authorities say no less than 50 rounds were fired into the church. 

Officers arrested 18-year-old Bryce Martin of Fortuna, 18-year-old Zachary Stauffer of Versailles, and two minors aged 14 and 17 after they allegedly fired at least 50 rounds of ammunition into the church building.

Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Dustin Dunklee charged Martin with “Unlawful Use of a Weapon,” “Armed Criminal Action,” and “First Degree Property Damage,” while Stauffer was charged with “1st Degree Property Damage and Armed Criminal Action.”

“Bryce Martin and Zachary Stauffer are being held in the Morgan County Jail with No Bond. The property damage is charged as a hate crime,” the statement from Sherrif Norman Dills reads. 

“This is an ongoing investigation and evidence is continuing to be seized. An incident at a second church in Morgan County is still under investigation.”

The two juveniles who were taken into custody were transferred to the Juvenile Justice Center in Camdenton.

Authorities seized three 9mm handguns, ammunition and a vehicle. While investigating the apparent shooting, investigators learned a church in Moniteau County that was vandalized. 

It is not immediately clear what the motivation was for the shooting at Clearview Church.

According to a report issued by the Family Research Council last December, there have been around 420 acts of hostility against churches in the United States over the past five years.

Additionally, the report states that 57 hostile acts that occurred between January and September 2022 were related to the abortion debate.

“Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property are likely symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship and religion — in this case, churches and Christianity,” wrote Arielle Del Turco, FRC’s assistant director of the Center for Religious Liberty, in the report.

“Americans appear increasingly comfortable lashing out against church buildings, pointing to a larger societal problem of marginalizing core Christian beliefs, including those that touch on hot-button political issues related to human dignity and sexuality.”

Earlier this month, an individual was arrested for allegedly throwing smoke bombs into a crowd and attempting to pepper spray attendees of a New Jersey church’s anti-racism charity event.

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