SPOKANE, Wash. --- A man faces charges for knocking over a statue of Mary, breaking a welcome sign, and a framed photo of Jesus at a local Catholic church.
Ronald Oscar Stewart, 56, faces malicious mischief charges for the destruction to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes on Riverside Avenue.
An off-duty deputy, Sgt. Michael Kittilstved, was sitting in the congregation in front of Stewart when he heard the defendant growling, according to court documents. The event, a special service for children, had about 50-60 kids in attendance. Kittilstved said he saw Stewart leave the sanctuary and followed him.
Father Curtis Seidel told police he saw Stewart leave the sanctuary as well and both witnesses watched him knock down a statue of Mary and break it. Kittilstved called 911.
"I heard a commotion going on yelling, and I was actually upstairs in my room," explained Seidel. "I looked out my window and saw a guy had thrown a statue to the ground and was charging into the church."
Seidel said he ran downstairs and saw the suspect knock over a welcome sign and break it. Seidel told officials he followed Stewart down a flight of stairs, where he found a broken picture of Jesus lying on the ground.
"Certainly of paramount importance was the safety of the children," Seidel said. "It was actually really worrisome, that's why I ran down so quickly."
Seidel told police he estimated the damage to be about $750.
"It's very frustrating to see these sorts of things happen, but in part, I think it kind of comes with the territory of being a downtown parish and the overall problems and difficulties that a lot of residents downtown have," explained Seidel. He noted many troubled people in the area battle mental illness and drug addiction.
As of Monday, Stewart was in Spokane County Jail on $10,000 bond.
This is the third case of vandalism at the church so far this year. In June, a man went on a rampage inside the sanctuary, then a few days later someone else stole money from inside the church. The church has added a security guard during the week, from Monday through Friday.
Police arrested Ronald Stewart for the vandalism at the church. Church staff say he also knocked over a statue & welcome sign. pic.twitter.com/HyENOpCwHN— Lindsay Nadrich (@KREMLindsay) October 4, 2016