Florida Man Accused of Vandalizing Religious Church Statues Arrested

Police arrested a man Monday in Punta Gorda, Florida, on accusations of vandalism, two days after members of a local church reported damages to religious statues situated nearby.

Arrest records from the sheriff's office in Charlotte County, where Punta Gorda is located, identify the man as 44-year-old Ian Crimi. He was charged with criminal mischief to a religious establishment and trespassing. The latter charge was unrelated to the vandalism incident, Punta Gorda police told Newsweek.

Crimi remained in custody on Wednesday, with bail set at $5,000 for the former charge and $3,500 for the latter.

Members of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church congregation notified police of the vandalism incident on Saturday, according to southwest Florida's NBC2 News. That broadcast report included video footage of the area where the statues are located, across the street from the church. Over the weekend, church members noticed five statues were either cracked or torn from their usual upright positions over the weekend, according to NBC2News.

"It's a very convenient peaceful, little sanctuary where you can stop off and say a prayer and get on your way," a church member, identified by her first name, Tracy, told NBC2 News. "It's just sad. It's very sad."

Police were able to identify Crimi using surveillance footage from a security camera positioned at the church's front entrance, NBC2 News reporter Joseph Ojo reported. The surveillance footage reportedly placed Crimi on Sacred Heart's property but did not directly capture the vandalism. Crimi denied his involvement in the incident when asked by police officers assigned to the investigation, Ojo said.

Officers followed up with the church's facilities manager two days later. After reviewing security footage captured by an adjacent camera, located closer to the church's prayer area, police decided Crimi was responsible for vandalizing the statues, according to NBC2 News. Punta Gorda police said Crimi was identified through video surveillance footage at the church's property.

The motive for damaging the statues, all of which resemble religious icons, was unclear.

"I don't see a purpose for it. I don't know why anybody would do that," Tracy, the church member, told NBC2 News. Police told Newsweek on Wednesday that the motive was still unknown.

Crimi was released from custody in Charlotte County one day before the vandalism took place. Sheriff's office records show he was held at the county jail for four days prior to his release, on charges brought by an out-of-county warrant. He was previously arrested in Charlotte County in 2017 on a municipal violation.

Florida church
A sign outside a church in Port St. Lucie, Florida, in 2014. Louis Jawitz/Getty