A Florida woman has been charged with a hate crime after she vandalized a local Catholic church.
Alfa Illescas, a 44-year-old Miami resident, was spotted on surveillance cameras vandalizing St. Timothy Catholic Church, according to Miami-Dade Police.
Illescas reportedly spray-painted graffiti on various walls, signage and columns in the church’s school courtyard – including the words “perverts,” “pigs” and “liars,” along with an upside-down cross.
She also approached spray-painted the security camera facing one altar and broke parts of another located in the church.
The police report estimated the damage to St. Timothy’s to be $3,000. Illescas was formally charged with felony criminal mischief on a church or place of worship.
The police report also concluded the attack was religiously motivated and the “crimes committed were done so with prejudice.”
“This is a tragedy, that a sacred place like a Catholic school and church property is vandalized. It’s a hate crime,” the Archdiocese of Miami said in an official statement regarding the attack.
“I’m concerned but I don’t think I’m surprised, because Christians are under attack, and you see it all over the world,” said Ana Fernandez, whose children graduated from St. Timothy.
Alfredo Ramirez, Department Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, spoke of the critical role of churches as safe havens for citizens to worship in peace.
“I am very proud of the tenacity and hard work of our Homeland Security Bureau investigators to arrest the individual responsible for this pointless crime,” Ramirez said.
The attack happened the night of June 10, a Saturday, but parishioners and school parents quickly banded together the next morning to clean up the mess.
“The kindness of parents is obvious as they were on-site right away helping to clean up and repair the disgraceful damage,” the Archdiocese said. “[We] ask for prayers as all who are now walking this journey – those frightened, those angry, and for the suspect that peace of heart may be found.”