East Bridgewater police and fire officials are investigating after a local Catholic church was vandalized and a fire was set on Friday.
Investigators believe one or more people entered St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church at 210 Central St. during the middle of the day, set fire to the altar and stole food items from the church pantry.
Most of the damage took place near the altar, where a fire was set that burned the altar cloth and a Bible, according to the fire department.
“There is no place for this type of incident in East Bridgewater, no matter the denomination,” Police Chief Michael Jenkins said in a news release. “We are working with the parish to determine how this happened, and why. We ask that anyone with information please step forward.”
East Bridgewater police and fire units were dispatched to the church at about 3:40 p.m., after the parish pastor smelled smoke in the church. First responders believe that a fire around the altar had been put out with a fire extinguisher, based on a yellow powder scattered throughout the front of the church.
Investigators also believe the suspects used a water jug to try and douse the fire, but used a fire extinguisher when that failed.
At the front of the church, the vandals lit votive candles and left used matches littered nearby. Police said the suspects dropped some food items taken from the pantry as they left through the back entrance.
Investigators believe the incident happened between 2 p.m. and 3:40 p.m., since an employee was at the food pantry around 2 p.m. and didn’t notice anything amiss.
Authorities are asking neighbors and residents who have information about the incident to call East Bridgewater Police at 508-378-7223. Community members are also asked to keep an eye out for anyone wearing clothing or shoes with yellow fire retardant powder, which is not easily removed.
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