Cops investigate swastika painted on Black Missouri church

Police are investigating the May 18 or 19 vandalism at Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church in Springfield as a hate crime.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A black swastika was painted on the outside wall of an historically Black church in southwestern Missouri and police are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.

Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church in Springfield reported that the swastika was spray painted on the building on May 18 or 19. The NAACP and the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the vandalism. A county parks crew removed the swastika.

A black swastika was painted on the south side of Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church, the oldest historically Black church in Springfield, sometime on May 18 or 19. (Photo: Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader/USA TODAY NETWORK)

During a news conference with the NAACP at the church Friday, the pastor, the Rev. Tracy Wolff, said her congregation was particularly disturbed that their church was targeted given recent violent hate crimes nationwide, including the deadly mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, that investigators have said was racially motivated.

“I want to be clear that this is not simply tagging. This is not graffiti. This is not vandalism,” Wolff said. “This was a hate crime, and it is unacceptable.”

Pitts Chapel is Springfield’s oldest historically Black church, Wolff said. It was founded in 1847 by a group of enslaved Africans.

“Though we are historically Black, on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m., we’re becoming one of the most diverse places in town. I don’t think a lot of people know that,” she said.

Police have not identified a suspect and are asking witnesses or anyone with information to contact police. In the meantime, Wolff said, the church is beefing up security.

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