NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD is on the hunt for the vandal caught on camera destroying statues outside a Catholic church in Queens.
The incident happened over the weekend in Forest Hills. CBS2’s Christina Fan spoke with upset parishioners arriving for mass on Sunday.READ MORE: MTA To Start Issuing $50 Fines To Riders Not Wearing Masks
Pieces of the Virgin Mary and St. Therese statues were scattered on the front lawn of Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church. Parishioners arriving for morning mass were unable to fathom why.
“It’s just very emotional,” one person said.
“It’s horrible. How can you do that?” another said.
Church surveillance cameras show the vandal striking at around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday. The suspect, who police said appears to be a woman, knocks over the statues, drags them across 30th Avenue, and then uses a hammer to smash them into pieces.
“It’s just a statue, but it symbolizes a good thing, which is hard to comprehend someone walking in the early morning and doing that,” parishioner Peter Kumelwski said.READ MORE: Police Seek Identity Of Man Accused In Alleged Anti-Asian Attack In Midtown
What is particularly heartbreaking about this act of vandalism is that the two statues date back to 1937, the year the church first opened.
“I don’t know if it’s just a general anti-religion sentiment or just people who aren’t well who have some kind of vendetta against churches,” Rev. Frank Schwarz said.
Schwarz told the stunned congregation he believes this wasn’t the suspect’s first attack on the church. He said the same woman pushed the statues off their pedestals on Wednesday and then returned Saturday to finish the job.
“She deliberately went and destroyed these things. It wasn’t enough just to topple then. She had a rage. She stomped on it and spit on it,” Schwarz said.
The statues are beyond repair. Signs on the ground Sunday read, “Please pray for the person who did this.” The pastor told parishioners to find it in their hearts to offer forgiveness instead of the hate the woman showed.
They urge anyone with information to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit a tip via their website or on Twitter, @NYPDTips. All calls are kept confidential.MORE NEWS: NYPD Investigating After Man Allegedly Threatens To Blow Up Brooklyn Synagogue, States 'Kill All Jews'
CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report.