A 16-year-old White Georgia girl has been arrested after it came to light that she planned to attack worshipers at a local predominantly Black church.
The Gainesville Police Department said in a statement posted on Instagram that they were alerted to the teen’s plan “to cause harm to multiple people” at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Gainesville.
The statement further read:
“Our investigation indicated the church was targeted by the juvenile based on the racial demographic of the church members.”
Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook told BuzzFeed NewsÂ that the teen, who remains unidentified because she is a minor, had visited the church at an earlier date but found no people there at the time. It is unknown whether this visit was intended to be an attack or just to observe the church.
“This was obviously a racially motivated crime.”Â
You can view the department’s full statement below.
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Other students were the first to alert school officials to the unidentified students plans. They told school counselors about a notebook the student had with detailed plans of how she would kill people at the church.
School officials then alerted the Gainesville Police Department, who investigated and found evidence of the girl’s plans to commit murder.
Police Chief Jay Parrish said that the student also researched Black churches online prior to visiting Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“I have no doubt that we thwarted an attack that would’ve been ugly.”Â
He also called the case:
“a prime example of how strong relationships between the student body, school administration, and law enforcement can intercept a potentially horrific incident.”Â
Local ABC affiliate WSB-TV also covered the story, you can view Chief Parrish’s interview below.
The student has been charged with criminal attempt to commit murder as a juvenile, and is being held at Gainsville’s Regional Youth Detention Center.
Her parents were present when she was interviewed by police, and they are cooperating fully with the investigation into their daughter’s planned violence.
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams told The Gainesville Times that he was also appalled by the idea that one of his students could have been planning such an act.
“When it got brought forward, it was very sobering to know that plans like that do go on in many communities, and in this case, went on in our community.”
“If it wasnâ€™t for those students turning the information over to administration and (Gainesville High Principal Jamie) Green, weâ€™d be having a different conversation today.”
Church trustee Shana Ramsey was shocked when she heard that a student who attended the same school system as her nieces and nephews was planning such a horrible act.
“Just to think that she has hatred like this in her heart is sad.”
“Maybe if someone could pray with her maybe she would be able to open up and say what it is that maybe she fears or maybe she wants to express or whatever. I think prayer would be the key to her life right now.”
She went on to say that the congregation would continue meeting for services as usual.
“We donâ€™t want anyone to be afraid to come to our church, because we will be here on Sunday morning rejoicing.”