Gurnee police are holding a woman for questioning in the vandalism of nearly a dozen churches and at least one mosque within the village and in Waukegan, Gurnee Police Cmdr. Jay Patrick said.
Authorities had asked for the public’s help in identifying images taken from surveillance cameras of a person spray-painting houses of worship of various faiths.
Police said the vandalism occurred sometime after Feb. 14. But authorities got little response from the public, despite relatively clear images from church video cameras. On Thursday afternoon, though, Patrick said authorities “have a suspect in custody.”
Patrick said he expected charges would be filed Friday.
When asked what led police to her, he said, “One of our officers was in traffic court and saw someone who looked like the (person in the) video.”
Earlier this month, church leaders reported that someone had spray-painted obscene messages or drawings near or on their front entrances overnight.
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Christian Church and Islamic Foundation North -- less than a mile from each other on O'Plaine Road in Waukegan -- reported finding the same spray-painted, anti-religious message near the entryway to their buildings Feb. 17. The Village Church of Gurnee on Grand Avenue found similar messages at two different building locations around the same time period, an employee said.
Leaders of Bethel Lutheran Church, also on Grand Avenue in Gurnee, found inverted crosses spray-painted in red on at least eight doors facing the parking lot on Feb. 14, said the Rev. Ben Squires. Church security cameras caught the suspect on tape at 1:30 a.m., he said.
“We have been praying for this individual,” Squires said before police had a person in custody. “We know that not everyone will agree with our faith in Jesus. … But spiritually speaking, our goal as a congregation would be to have dialogue with anyone about their faith.”
Gurnee police have not publicly identified the other churches that also reported “criminal defacement” and “criminal damage” to property for investigative purposes, officials said.