By Clint Confehr
MURFREESBORO, TN — Four previously-declared juvenile delinquents are under “house arrest” because of what may be a federal hate crime, pastors at Walnut Grove Missionary Baptist Church said this week.
Rutherford County Juvenile Court Judge Donna Scott Davenport found the boys delinquent again, this time for desecration of the church Sept. 18 when racist threats were written on the church and the building vandalized, Walnut Grove’s pastor reports.
Meanwhile, Rev. Richard Sibert has called a town hall meeting for 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13 in the Baptist church at 2480 Twin Oak Drive. It’s in the vicinity of Oakland High School.
Associate Pastor Goldy Wade said the open meeting is for discussion and to “find something bigger and better to come of this bad situation.”
Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Matthews found “KKK” written in Bibles and “We are white and we are watching you, white power” written on doors of the predominantly black church. Church leaders, members and friends spoke of the desecration while cleaning the church. The boys entered Sibert’s office by breaking window bars at an air conditioner. Sausage was fried in the church kitchen. Grease was spattered on walls. Fire extinguisher foam was sprayed in the church. What appears to be a klan robe was found in the church. Vulgar words were painted on a wall. A camera for live-streamed worship services was found in nearby woods. Food prepared for poor people was rendered useless. Some of it clogged a toilet that overflowed.
In court Sept. 21, Rev. Sibert learned the boys, ages 14, 15 and 16, “have prior juvenile
convictions,” Sibert said.
The boys were accused of breaking and entering, vandalism and truancy.
Sibert saw two of them Sept. 21, he said. The other two were in court Sept. 20. One of the boys is home-schooled.
Judge Davenport ruled: they’re not to have contact with each other; three may ride a
school bus to school; none may otherwise leave home without a parent; restitution is required; and another hearing is set Dec. 11 “to see how they evolved,” Sibert said.
The sheriff’s Facebook page indicated that a juvenile court hearing on one or more of the boys’ cases would be held Sept. 24.
In Tennessee, juveniles aren’t arrested. They’re taken into custody on a petition asking the juvenile court to declare them delinquent because their acts, if committed by an adult, would be crimes.
Referring to a principal with responsibility over the situation, Sibert said, the boys were “thrown out” of school and sent to alternative school.
“Three of us at the church offered to monitor this [one] boy brought to the church by his mother,” Sibert said.
Wade said, “I admire her for having the spirit to bring him in to apologize.”
After the apology, Sibert prayed with him in his office Sept. 19 while the church was cleaned. For more, go to tntribune.com. Search for Volunteers Clean Racist Graffiti.
Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh said his officers “quickly addressed these insensitive and disturbing hate crimes at a place of worship.”
America’s Church Arson Prevention Act prohibits damaging religious property because of race, color, or ethnic characteristics. It’s punishable by 20 years in prison. Fire isn’t required to enforce the law. The crime’s statue of limitations is seven years.
Detective Jamin Humphress was to speak with a prosecutor about charges in addition to those in juvenile court, the sheriff’s Facebook page states.
People are praying for the boys, said Wade, looking for ways to show “love will overcome everything…
“It used to be that there were some things that were off limits,” Wade said. “A leader of this nation, with certain things he’s said, seems to have stirred up some groups that deal in hate.”
While an agenda for the Oct. 13 meeting wasn’t set, Wade said, “People can come and address their concerns … everybody knows that we have those problems here … [we] encourage people to be more vigilant.”