Police in Toledo, Ohio are investigating an arson attack on Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral involving an attempted fire and a spray-painted message on the outer walls reading “Jesus is Black.”
A man whom police identified as a suspect in the vandalism attack fatally shot a Toledo police officer Monday afternoon during a standoff at his home, police say.
Suspect Christopher Harris shot and killed 24-year-old Officer Brandon Stalker as Stalker attempted to arrest Harris, local media reported. Stalker leaves behind a fiancée and a child.
Bishop Daniel Thomas of Toledo on Tuesday afternoon issued a statement expressing “profound sorrow” at the officer’s death.
“Together with all people of good will, I am deeply grateful for the selfless generosity of the men and women in uniform who daily risk their own lives to protect and serve us all. Together, may we all commit ourselves to increased prayer and action to bring about an end to violence and all its underlying causes,” Thomas wrote.
The initial vandalism incident left an estimated $5,000 in damage. A neighbor said he saw a lone man outside the church, and called the police when he saw the fire.
Fire crews on the scene did not find active flames, but did find evidence of a flash fire at the front entry doors which had extinguished itself. The fire damage was confined to the outer doors and trim.
The Diocese of Toledo in a statement issued before media reports of the shooting thanked first responders and encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact the Toledo Police Department.
“We are alarmed and heartsick by what occurred at the mother church of the Diocese of Toledo, a sacred building, a house of worship and an historical, architectural and spiritual treasure,” the statement read.
“As the damage to the Cathedral is assessed, there is an ongoing investigation to determine whether the acts were religious, racial or ethnic in nature and we will continue to cooperate with authorities...Together with all Catholics, Christians and people of faith we denounce any such acts of vandalism.”
Several incidents of racially-motivated graffiti left on church buildings have been reported throughout the United States since last summer, when protests erupted throughout the country in response to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was again targeted January 1 by protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter Brooklyn and Justice for George, the New York Post reported. Police found the phrase “ACAB,” a derogatory phrase aimed at police, spray painted on the church.