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FBI joins investigation of Bozeman church burglary

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 08 2013 11:06:20 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

"We just saw the need for protection," said Dean Hampton, Executive Pastor at Evangelical Free (E-Free) Church in Bozeman.

Several months ago, they decided to invest in a security system.

"The security system will be installed this month- with cameras," he said.

And after they heard about what happened over the weekend, they knew they made the right decision.

"There's always a concern that could happen at other churches," Hampton said. "That's just the reality of the situation."

Vandals broke into Holy Rosary Church, spray painted graffiti everywhere and broke several items like electronic equipment and decorations.

But this wasn't just a vandalism spree.

"It's got the potential to possibly be investigated as a hate crime" said Bozeman Police Captain Steve Crawford.

No one's been arrested, but Crawford said the FBI is now involved. And the charges? Felony burglary.

And this is just weeks after a Baptist church was hit with the same type of attack.

"There's enough similarities that we're treating them as being related," Crawford said.

"We have to be strong," Hampton said. "We have to figure out what could happen and how do we brace for it."

He said it's sad to see places of worship defaced with messages of hate, but said he hopes the religious community can rally together.

Hampton said he's seen hate crimes committed against churches in other communities, and that's what helped them get through before.

"It galvanizes the congregation itself, and also brings together other churches. And in a weird way the churches tend to get stronger," he said.

NBC Montana talked with several other Bozeman area churches about the incident.

Almost all said they are re-evaluating their security policy, and some are looking at installing alarms and camera systems.

In the meantime, Crawford said the FBI and investigators in both church attacks are meeting together to review evidence collected from the scene, and figure out the next step in the investigation.