Copper thief targets north St. Louis church

ST. LOUIS – A copper thief caused hundreds of dollars worth of damage to a north St. Louis church while attempting to steal part of the copper roofing. The crime happened late Tuesday night, January 29, and it was all caught on camera.

While assessing the building, as he does each morning, Carl Williams, building and transportation manager for Greater Pentecostal Church of God, noticed an out of place folding chair outside one of the doors. Then he saw the damage to the awning above the doorway.

"I just couldn't believe that people would resort to this type of action against a church," said Williams.

Williams and Bishop Terence Coleman checked the security cameras. While reviewing footage from late Tuesday night, they spotted a man using a long piece of wood to lift the copper roofing over a doorway.

After a few minutes, the man disappears from sight but returns about 15 minutes later with a folding chair. The man could be seen climbing up onto the awning over the church entryway and peeling back the metal roofing.

"No hammer, no crowbar, working with his bare hands," said Coleman.

Coleman said the church has insurance and estimates the damage to be between $500 and $700.

The church has been at its current location on West Florissant Avenue for 20 years. Williams said he noticed an uptick in petty crime in the area about five years ago which is why he installed security cameras around the building.

Coleman called this act of vandalism frustrating because the church does a lot to help the community like hosting a back-to-school fair and handing out care packages around Christmas and Easter. Coleman said he would have been happy to help the man in the video too.

"If they was that hard up for some money, I'd have been glad to give them four or five dollars to go down the street and get some chicken or some rice," he said.

The surveillance footage shows the man struggling to remove the copper roofing for nearly 30 minutes. Coleman said they plan to get the roof fixed but will not use copper again.

He has this message for the man in the surveillance video:

"Man, we forgive you, just like Christ has forgiven us for our wrong," Coleman said.

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call St. Louis police.

(Note: Williams said the date on the surveillance video is correct, but the time stamp is programmed incorrectly.)

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