Melbourne police say 'Allahu Akbar' graffiti at church is juvenile vandalism

Vandals set fire at Florida church, draw swastika

A possible hate crime is investigated after fire was set at a Central Florida church and "Allahu Akbar" was written nearby.

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Melbourne police told Local 6 late Wednesday afternoon that the arson and graffiti at a local church was not a hate crime, but an act of juvenile vandalism.

Local 6 first reported Tuesday about the vandalism to the New Shiloh Christian Center in Melbourne and since then detectives have been working to find out if this was a hate crime or something else.

Around 2:30 a.m. Monday, Melbourne police say a vandal or vandals set the building's two storage units on fire.

The Arabic words "Allahu Akbar" or God is great were also spray-painted on the side of a shed that sits on church property. A swastika with "We See U" was painted on the other side of the shed. Workers have since tried to hide the messages with their own spray-paint.

Church leaders told Local 6 Tuesday that they believe this was a hate crime, but Melbourne police spokesperson Lt. Cheryl Trainer said Wednesday that isn't the case.

"The indication is juvenile-type graffiti. It ranges in style from sort of an anime theme, to swastikas, to crude anatomical references," said Lt. Trainer. "It's across the map and it doesn't depict any particular motivation or bias against a particular group."

Nevertheless, Melbourne police said they have and will continue to beef up patrols near the church. Church leaders also said they plan to increase security themselves, especially while members are there.

The damages left behind by the vandal or vandals are expected to be around $5,000.

"It's a terrible thing for the church. They've invested a lot of heart and soul into that location and have made a tremendous effort and a beautiful facility," said Lt. Trainer. "Our heart goes out to them and we will put 110 percent effort into find who did it."

Church leaders Wednesday evening will be gathering for a meeting. The vandalism and messages behind them are expected to be discussed.

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