Video: Man smashes Virgin Mary statue at Royal Oak church, stabs it repeatedly with flag pole

Sung Won Lee facing charges

Sung Won Lee is accused of causing damage to a statue inside a Royal Oak church on March 8, 2022. (Royal Oak Police Department)

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – A South Korean man was caught on video going into a Royal Oak church, smashing the head of a Virgin Mary statue on the ground and then stabbing the statue several times with a flag pole.

Destruction inside church

Officials said they were called around 9 p.m. March 8 to St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Lafayette Avenue near Lincoln Avenue in Royal Oak.

When police arrived, they found Sung Won Lee, 30, of South Korea, throwing objects around inside the church, they said.

Sung Won Lee (WDIV)

Lee tried to drag the Virgin Mary statue out of the church, damaged an outdoor flood light, broke four windows and threw garbage and potted plants outside, according to authorities.

Officers took Lee into custody without incident. He was charged with one count of breaking and entering and one count of malicious destruction of property over $1,000.

Lee faces up to 10 years in prison on the breaking and entering charge and up to five years in prison on the destruction of property charge.

He’s being held on $25,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for Friday (March 18).

Surveillance video

Police released surveillance video Tuesday that shows Lee walking into the entrance room, grabbing the statue by the shoulders and throwing it down on the ground. The impact caused the top of the statue to shatter.

Lee grabbed the base of the statue and dragged it several feet to a corner of the room, video shows. He disappeared from view momentarily before returning and grabbing a large American flag.

Using the bottom of the flag pole, Lee stabbed the statue three times before grabbing it again and dragging it out of view.

You can watch the surveillance footage below.

Surveillance footage from March 8, 2022, shows a South Korean man smashing a Virgin Mary statue inside a Royal Oak church and later stabbing it with a flag pole.

Community mourns loss of statue

Members of the church congregation came together Sunday morning after incident.

“We really hope this person finds peace and their soul finds protection and healing,” Father Paul Snyder said.

The 5 foot, 6 inch Virgin Mary statue was built in 1930 and was displayed in the front entrance of the church.

“We really miss it,” Synder said. “It was such a beautiful presence and feeling of protection to have it here.”

Lee broke into the church shortly after Snyder locked the doors that night, authorities said.

You can watch Priya Mann’s reports below.

We're learning about a break-in at a church in Royal Oak over the weekend. A warning - this video may be difficult for some to watch. Priya Mann is following this story Tuesday (March 15) evening at Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Royal Oak.
A community is coming together in prayer after a man broke into a Royal Oak church last week, causing damage -- particularly to an old religious statue.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.