Bullet holes, tipped pews, fire set: Vandals destroy historic Black church in Missouri on Thanksgiving eve

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HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo (KMOX) - The pastor of a historic Missouri church, that was originally built by slaves, says he doesn't want to speculate on the motive for the vandalism that destroyed his place of worship the night before Thanksgiving.

Walls were kicked out, pews pulled up, the pulpit destroyed, bathroom fixtures destroyed, chairs thrown through windows, gunshots were fired throughout and a fire was started, says Pastor Gordon Coleman of Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo. The damage is estimated at $50,000.

"We have no idea and we can't speculate because speculating is just hurting all those around us that had nothing to do with it," Coleman says.

The 153-year-old church has been vandalized several times before, but this was the worst it's ever been with signs of real "rage" according to Coleman. He says they'll step up security measures for his churches.

One of the congregation members Michelle Johnson posted photos on Facebook, explaining that there are actually two churches that were destroyed. One church is more than 150-years-old and the other was built in 2001.

"As long as I can remember, Mt. Vernon has experienced vandalism. Our mailboxes were burned down, windows broken and shot out, beer cans strewn over the cemetery, tombstones destroyed, trash thrown at the church, and the doors at the old and new churches were kicked in along with much more destruction," stated Johnson. "We have installed cameras and lights over the church, and they have been continuously knocked down and destroyed."

"Vernon is so much more than a church, it’s a safe haven, it’s our peace of mind, its rich history comforts us, my grandmother, grandfather, father, daughter, brother, and loved ones are buried there. Mt. Vernon cemetery has unmarked graves of black civil war soldiers, slaves and black convicts dating back to the early 1800’s," he post stated.

The Callaway County Sheriff's Department tells KMOX its detectives and those from neighboring Cole County are following leads, but have not yet identified suspects.

The church is accepting donations to make repairs, through its Facebook page.

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