Calgary, Alberta – One man has now been charged in connection with two church vandalisms that occurred this summer, thanks to the keen eye of a detective working on the case.
During the night of Wednesday, June 30, 2021, orange and red paint was placed on the exterior of 11 churches and one had a window smashed so paint could also be thrown inside. Handprints, the number “215” and other markings suggest the vandalism was in response to the location of graves at former residential schools.
Investigators collected and processed evidence from the scene but were not able to identify any suspects as a result. CCTV photos of suspects were released in July, but we were still unable to identify the people involved.
A break in the case came in August, after a detective attending an unrelated incident noticed a man closely matching one of the vandalism suspects. The identification of the suspect led to further evidence coming to light and charges have now been laid in connection with two of the church vandalisms.
Sebastian RODRIGUEZ-HUERTA, 23, of Calgary, is charged with two counts of mischief to a property primarily used for religious worship. It is alleged that these incidents also meet the threshold of being hate-motivated crimes.
“Our investigators are very dedicated to the work that they do and continue looking for new leads even when a case seems to have gone cold,” said Staff Sergeant Kurt Jacobs, with the Calgary Police Service General Investigations Unit. “When we do get new information, it often breathes new life into an investigation as it did in this case.”
The investigation into the church vandalisms and a church arson around that same time continue and we are still looking to identify other suspects.
Our Service continues to be aware of the ongoing trauma and tensions in the community regarding the tragic and heartbreaking stories about the Residential School System that have been shared this year.
We want to assure the community that we are fully committed to working towards peaceful reconciliation and a recognition of our past, while still performing our duties of upholding the law and protecting public safety.
Anyone with information on the church vandalisms or the arson is asked to call us at 403-266-1234. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by contacting Crime Stoppers through any of the following methods:
APP: “P3 Tips”
Hate-motivated crimes are recognizable crimes, like assault, theft, vandalism or any other crime, where the offender was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate that is based on one of nine personal characteristics of the victim.
Any evidence of a hate motivation is considered by the courts after a person is found guilty of the connected crime. If the judge decides during sentencing that hate was a motivation for the offence, it is an aggravating factor that can add to the convicted person’s sentence.
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