MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – A vandalism incident at a predominantly black church on South 8th Avenue in Mount Vernon is currently under investigation by city and state authorities as a possible hate crime, according to officials.
The word “devil” was found spray-painted on a door leading to the administrative offices of the Greater Centennial A.M.E. Church, according to a statement Saturday from Mayor Richard Thomas, who said the graffiti was discovered “this weekend.”
The mayor described the incident as one in a “spate of graffiti vandalism” incidents that occurred at houses of worship in Mount Vernon, but provided no details about other investigations or allegations.
“I was heartbroken to learn of these despicable acts of vandalism at cherished houses of worship,” Thomas said. “(These acts were) driven by hatred and cowardice and we will not allow them to intimidate.”
The mayor said that police responded to the A.M.E. Church at 312 South 8th Ave. after learning of the vandalism. They were joined by city firefighters, who investigated to “ensure no hazardous or unsafe conditions were caused” by the incident.
While noting a statement from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman earlier in the week promising strict penalties for those found to have committed hate crimes, Thomas said his city will take a tough stand on such matters.
“I share (Schneiderman’s) firm commitment to keeping the forces of hate and fear out of our communities,” Thomas said. “We have all seen the recent rise of hate crimes by malicious individuals or groups, but they will not be tolerated here.”
According to Thomas, the Mount Vernon Police Department is investigating the vandalism with aid from Westchester County and New York state police.
Anyone with information is asked to call police at 914-665-2500.
According to his office, Thomas was to address the Greater Centennial A.M.E. Church on Sunday morning. A call to the church early Sunday went unanswered.