“It’s mystifying, you know?” said St. Elmore Armistad, a deacon at Mt. Avery M.B. Church on Nashville Ferry Road in southeastern Lowndes County.
Armistad, 73, made a horrifying discovery when he went to the church Monday afternoon: It had been covered with graffiti, painted in a variety of colors, all along the sides and front.
“Why us? That’s the first thing I wondered,” he said. “You hear about things like that happening other places, but you don’t get a grip on it until it happens to you.”
Armistad said the congregation — which has about five people who regularly attend — met Sunday and everything was fine. He came back by the church about 2:20 p.m. Monday, saw the paint and called the sheriff’s office.
The messages all pertain to abortion rights — “Keep your laws off our body” and “Girls just want to have fundamental human rights” — and Armistad said that doesn’t have anything to do with what goes on at his church.
“We don’t preach abortion,” he said. “We preach Jesus Christ. It just don’t add up.”
Lowndes County Sheriff Eddie Hawkins characterized the vandalism as “odd,” noting that the church, east of Columbus near the Alabama line, was in the middle of nowhere on a road that sees little traffic.
He said investigators are seeking suspects on what will likely be a vandalism charge. Whether it will be a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the estimated amount of the damage, which Hawkins said he doesn’t have yet.
“Why there?” he said. “Why that church? Why use that to send a message?”
Armistad reckons the church was picked specifically because it is so isolated.
“I think they picked us because they knew they could get away with it,” he said. “There’s nobody close by to kind of keep an eye on things.”
Hawkins said he couldn’t remember a church being vandalized like this recently.
“I can’t recall one since I’ve been in office,” he said. “Usually it’s a burglary or something, but they didn’t try to get in. There was no damage other than the graffitti.”
Armistad said the congregation was trying to figure out what to do next.
“We’re trying to find out what it will take to get rid of it,” he said. “It’s in different colors, and on the wood and the brick, too.”
Anyone with knowledge of this case or any additional information is asked to contact Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office at 662-328-6788 or call Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers at 800-530-7151. Tips can also be submitted via the P3 Tips smartphone app.
Tipsters will remain anonymous, and are eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to an arrest.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
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