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.
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).
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.
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.