GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Three South Jersey churches were vandalized Friday morning, in Blackwood, Runnemede and Woodbury and police have a suspect.
"I just want to say this is a very active investigation," Gloucester Township Police Chief David Harkins stated.
Three separate Roman Catholic churches in Camden and Gloucester counties were vandalized after, police say, a man went on a destructive rampage, throwing several bricks and even setting items on fire.
"We are investigating it as a hate crime, yes," Chief Harkins said.
The arrest of 40-year-old Peter Sirolli as the primary suspect was announced by officials with the Runnemede Police, Woodbury Police and Gloucester Township Police.
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Officials say Sirolli went to Holy Angels Parish in Woodbury Friday morning, around 7:15 and used what police believe was gasoline set fire to a wooden cross at the church.
He is then accused of going to Holy Child Parish St. Teresa Church, in Runnemede.
"He went there and took a brick and threw it at the stain glass windows in front of the church. Luckily, he missed the windows," Chief Harkins explained.
Police say a witness saw Sirolli in the act of throwing a brick and followed him to his next stop at St. Agnes Church, in Blackwood, while calling police.
"He witnesses the suspect throw a brick through one of the glass windows just above the entrance to St. Agnes Church," Chief Harkins said.
Police say he then set a nearby flagpole on fire. Investigators say a local maintenance worker caught him in the act and Sirolli took off in his truck. Sirolli was later arrested at a Seventh-Day Adventist church, after a slow-speed chase, lasting just a few minutes.
Father Joseph Szolack is the priest at St. Agnes Church and says he’s thankful a suspect is in custody. "No one was hurt. It would be much more challenging if he hurt someone or if he lit the church on fire or something."