Investigation is ongoing by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office into recent bullet holes found in the soon to be Blue Springs Baptist Church.
Initial findings pointed toward vandalism. The incident reportedly occurred sometime between Aug. 24 at midnight, and Aug. 28 at 2:23 p.m.
The Rev. Richard Snyder of Blue Springs said he and his congregation are in shock.
“... Because the building (Blue Springs Elementary) had sat vacant for a long time,” Snyder explained. “Then our contractor called us to let us know it had been shot with a gun. It was pretty surprising given the fact we are reaching completion with the external repairs.”
Deputy Ken Ritenour filed the initial report. He responded to a call before speaking with contractor and maintenance man Neal Keller.
Keller was painting the “old building” for Blue Springs Baptist Church when he noticed several holes in the side of the building. The bullet holes appeared to have been shot by a high powered rifle.
“They stood in front of the building,” Snyder said of the shooter. “The building is elevated off the ground, so the trajectory was at a pretty sharp angle. The bullets pierced the front, pierced a lot of things inside and then exited through the roof.”
He reported the church initially planned to move into the old elementary school facilities by the end of September. Damage inflicted by the bullets has moved the projected date to late October or later. Bullets reportedly damaged electrical panels, duct work and the roof.
Bob Gault, BCSO media and public relations coordinator, said the damage estimate to the building is $2,500. The church is currently working with insurance adjustors and trying to figure out if the roof is fixable.
Ritenour reported Keller also found several 7.62 by 39 round casings in the building’s driveway. Further investigation found 11 pieces of brass which were also collected for evidence. Detectives are searching for both the shooter and the intent behind the act.
The congregation has handled the recent case of vandalism well, according to Snyder.
“I think there is some disappointment. I do feel like they have taken it very well and not reacted in anger or anything like that, but more in disappointment,” Snyder said. “Most people I have heard express an opinion simply hold onto the fact they hope whoever did it did not know it was going to be a church.”
Snyder drafted a letter to the Bradley County Commission a year ago explaining the intent of the church in purchasing the property. He said the church is the oldest institution in the Blue Springs Community. The purchase of the old school will allow for additional recreational opportunities and worship services.
“Our plans include a total relocation of our church, the repairs of the gymnasium, a future daycare facility to assist families in the community, the hosting of Upwards basketball and volleyball, community events as needed and a place for county elections,” Snyder explained in his letter.
Renovations on the old school building began in January 2013. Much of the work was weather dependent. Snyder said long periods of rain made it difficult to complete any external repairs. The church waited a total of 12 weeks to repair the roof and seven weeks to paint the outside of the building.
The building had just been painted prior to the shooting.
Snyder said everyone in the Blue Springs community has been supportive of what the church is trying to accomplish.
“We just simply would ask for any information to be sent over to [the BCSO] to aid in finding who did this,” Snyder said. “There seems to be some random acts of shooting, like the signs on the road to the building which have been shot to pieces. It seems to coincide to the same time the building was shot up. We hope the people in the community would want to find who is responsible to put an end to it.”