Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Metropolitan Ministries' Holiday center vandalized with satanic, racist graffiti

HOLIDAY — This weekend, workers at Metropolitan Ministries will be trying to scrub hateful graffiti off an exterior wall. For the second time this year, a person or group of people have defaced a garage wall of the nonprofit's Pasco facility at 3214 U.S. 19. The faith-based ministry helps needy families throughout Tampa Bay.

"There have been some strange things going on there," said Pasco Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll.

In January, workers arrived on site to find a "666" and a cross written on a garage wall "in what appeared to be a reddish brown substance similar to that of dry blood," a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report states. The garage window was shot out, authorities said. A staff member also told investigators she has witnessed drug deals in the parking lot.

The organization contacted the Sheriff's Office. No suspects were found. Then, the graffiti appeared again Thursday morning, done sometime overnight. This time it was a swastika and "666," drawn in the same unknown red substance. Doll said the agency wouldn't be testing to see if it's blood because this is a criminal mischief complaint and those tests are expensive.

The facility is a former Methodist church that became the Joining Hands Community Mission in 2009, then joined forces last summer with Metropolitan Ministries. The resource center in Holiday handles a range of services, including summer camps for homeless children, financial literacy classes, emergency shelter, substance abuse programs and more.

An agency spokeswoman declined to discuss the vandalism cases, noting the incidents remain under investigation.

"We are working with the authorities to find out who is the culprit," said Ana Mendez, spokeswoman for Metropolitan Ministries.

Doll urges anyone with information to call Detective Jennifer Zoccoli at 1-800-854-2862, ext. 7873.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.

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