MORRIS COUNTY — Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Investigations John R. Speirs, Morristown Police Chief Peter Demnitz, and Morris Township Police Chief Mark DiCarlo announce that an arrest has been made in relation to the acts of vandalism at several Morristown and Morris Township Churches.
Zuri C. Towns, 45, Morristown, was identified as the person allegedly responsible for these acts and was arrested by police detectives today. Mr. Towns provided a statement to police confirming his involvement in these incidents and confirmed that he acted alone. The defendant previously attended services at one of the vandalized churches as a minor.
Detectives were led to the defendant as a result of video obtained from one of the vandalized churches. Possessing his personal description and that of his clothing, police were able to identify the defendant this morning near his residence, which is in close proximity to several of the churches.
Mr. Towns was charged with four counts of criminal mischief in the fourth degree and one count of criminal mischief in the third degree. As a result of the investigation, no evidence was obtained that would indicate this was a bias incident which legally requires purpose to intimidate a person or group based upon their protected class. Mr. Towns was served with summons complaints pending a court appearance.
Prosecutor Knapp would like to thank the Morristown and Morris Township Police Departments for their role in this investigation along with members of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office in arresting the defendant today. The Prosecutor also extends his thanks to members of the local clergy, especially Pastor Robert Rogers and Pastor Craig Dunn, for their assistance.
The following churches had damages reported:
- Church of God in Christ for All Saints, 3 Rowe Street, Morristown
- Bethel A.M.E. Church, 59 Spring Street, Morristown
- Calvary Baptist Church, 10 Martin Luther King Avenue, Morristown
- Union Baptist Church, 89 Spring Street, Morristown
- Morristown Church of Christ, 265 Martin Luther King Avenue, Morris Township
The vandalism was limited to property damage including a broken stained glass window and broken or damaged exterior signs.
Governor-Elect Phil Murphy, said in a tweet “Disgusted by reported vandalism of African-American churches across Morristown. These cowardly acts will not shake our faith. They will renew our determination to come together as one NJ.”
Editors Note: A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. Despite this accusation, the defendant is presumed innocent until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.