Churches offer support to teens accused of damaging buildings

Damage at City Gate Church.

Church leaders are offering support to the two teenagers police say are responsible for badly damaging three Hillsboro churches in the past two weeks.

Hillsboro police say they arrested two teenage boys, 15 and 16 years old, early Tuesday morning after receiving a tip last night.

Overnight March 25, police say the teens broke into the City Gate Church on Darnielle Drive. A week later, they targeted the Hillsboro Presbyterian Church on Northeast 32nd Avenue. On Sunday night, they forcibly entered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just up the block from Hillsboro Presbyterian, and caused significant damage.

Mike Rouches, spokesperson for Hillsboro police, says detectives believed the crimes were connected. He says in all three cases, vandals broke through a window to gain entry. Once inside, damage was consistent.

Police say the two boys live near two of the churches on Northeast 32nd Avenue.

"It's sad," Steve Dever, Property Elder for Hillsboro Presbyterian, said. "I mean it's too bad. You just move on. There's nothing you can do, it's already happened."

Dever says Hillsboro Presbyterian had the least damage. Two other churches, City Gate Church and the Mormon church didn't fare so well.

"Threw laptops, computers, dumped over our entire soundboard," Kristina Lakie, youth pastor for City Gate Church, said. "Anything they could do just to destroy things is pretty much what they did."

Rob Fotheringham, Hillsboro Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says he met with the boys and their parents before they were taken into custody.

"They explained that they had some struggles in life," Fotheringham said of their conversation. "It was being revealed in angry ways."

Fotheringham says he offered support to the boys and their families once they were through their judicial process.

"They had no real purpose in doing it," he said. "This could be a starting point for them to make a change, to turn their lives around and to make a better start of it."

The Washington County district attorney's office formally charged the two teens Tuesday. They are facing three counts of burglary II, three counts of criminal mischief I and two counts of theft I, all Class C felonies in Oregon. A spokesperson with the Washington County Juvenile Justice Center told KATU News it will be up to the judge and victims, churches in this case, to decide if they want to try the boys as adults.

"If anything, a church might have been an ideal place for them to learn that kind of lesson," Fotheringham said.

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