Burglars ransack church, cause $20K in water damage

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Brazen burglars broke into a Jacksonville church and stoke several thousand dollars in items.

The would-be burglars also caused several thousand dollars in water damage.

According to an incident report from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Sheila Upson told police her church had been broken into. Upson told police the church was secure and no one had permission to be there.

Upson told First Coast News she found the damage Sunday morning.

"You could not imagine my dismay when I saw the place," Upson said.

Upson is the Bishop of The Garden of Christ Ministries on Verna Boulevard.

According to the police report, The Garden of Christ Ministries suffered $20,000 in extensive water damage to flooring, the ceiling, walls, furniture, books, bibles, a podium, files paperwork and other items.

Other businesses in the building also suffered water damage, including Intercontinental Freight Brokers, Incorporated, Board Up, Joe. W. Mange Company and River City Fire Protection.

The report states the burglary happened sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

An officer saw where a wood panel had been removed from the rear door of the church suite. It appears that was where the suspect got into the church. The church was ransacked.

The report states an officer found a pipe cutter that was left by the suspect on a 2-inch copper pipe in the ceiling. The copper pipe is a water line for the business building. According to the report, it appears the suspect cut a hole in the copper water pipe, causing a water leak that flooded the business building suites. It also appears the suspect left through the front door and that the suspect was trying to steal the exterior air conditioning units.

Upson said she believes burglars stole copper wiring and that the broken water main sent at least an inch of water cascading through the building.

she said.

Several church items were stolen including a camcorder, a $1,500 keyboard, guitars, televisions, stereos, a $1,000 mixing board and a $1,000 computer. Upson said the pews were damaged. She said bibles were either damaged or even stolen.

"It seems like the maliciousness that went along with the burglaries that really caused my heart to hurt," she said.

Upson affectionately calls their 100 plus members "gardeners."

Tuesday, those "gardeners" were planting their roots in faith.

"I have hurt and I have hope. The hope is that this is not the end. For I know that the Lord has good plans for us and plans for us to prosper and to succeed. And that, we will do," Upson said.

Bishop Upson said they hope to be back to normal by this weekend, if everything dries out.

She said the church is not sure how long it will take to replace everything, but they will be having bible study Wednesday at 6 and church this Sunday.

A JSO spokesperson said there have been on arrests nor any suspects. If you have any information, call police or First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.


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