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LEFT: A broken window was part of recent vandalism at Holy Innocents, Victorville. CENTER: Upland Police officers detain a man following an incident at St. Joseph, Upland. RIGHT: A broken statue at Our Lady of the Valley, Hemet.

UPLAND, VICTORVILLE, HEMET—Three parishes (St. Joseph in Upland, Holy Innocents in Victorville and Our Lady of the Valley in Hemet) have been targets of vandalism this summer.

At St. Joseph, 42-year-old David Martinez of Ontario was arrested on suspicion of arson and making a criminal threat after he threatened violence and set a fire in the chapel at St. Joseph, Upland, on the afternoon of July 7.

According to police comments made in the Press-Enterprise newspaper, Martinez was heard yelling that he was going to kill everyone in the church, and he lit books on fire in the Adoration Chapel. There were no injuries, although a wall sustained smoke damage, Lt. Anthony Kabayan told the Press-Enterprise.

The parish posted on Facebook that Martinez appeared to suffer from mental illness. “We attempted to console him but he became increasingly threatening in his words and actions, forcing us to contact the police,” said the post.

“We believe this to be an isolated incident carried out by one, misguided individual. While we are surely upset by this incident, let us pray for this man that he received the help he needs, and let us also pray for each other as we attempt to cope with this act against our parish community. The Adoration Chapel will remain closed as we assess the fire damage and determine next steps for repairing it and ensuring adequate security,” added the post.

At Holy Innocents, property outside the church was vandalized in mid July. Damage included chipping on the face of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a broken window, and damage to a flowerpot, wall and outdoor light fixture. The vandalism was reported to police. 

At Our Lady of the Valley in Hemet, some statues were broken.

“We are very saddened by acts of vandalism and acts of violence at our parishes. We ask Our Lord to watch over our clergy and parishioners,” said Vicar General Monsignor Gerard Lopez.

“Pastors and parish staff are welcome to contact Ruben Luna at the Catholic Mutual Group offices and Ann Marie Gallant in our EOC Office for good ways to protect our parishioners and safeguard our parishes. Also, if Pastors can let the Office of the Bishop know of any acts of vandalism, we will try to offer support and assistance especially the spiritual strength of our prayers,” added Msgr. Lopez.