GAINESVILLE, Ga. - A 16-year-old Gainesville student has been arrested in connection with a plan to attack a north Georgia church.
Last Friday, school administrators at Gainesville High were notified about a white juvenile's alleged plan to attack Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Gainesville. According to Gainesville police, students told school counselors the suspect had a notebook with detailed plans to commit murder at the church. It outlined plans to commit murder using a knife in the middle of the sanctuary.
"The student who immediately reported this to school officials saved lives." police Chief Jay Parrish remarked.
School administrations verified the threat and immediately turned the investigation over to Gainesville police.
“She had written down how she wanted to do it, the best way to do it. She had procured some butcher knives, kitchen knives to do the attack with,” said Chief Parrish.
The teen was taken into custody and charged with criminal attempt to commit murder.
"I am highly alarmed, that someone would feel that way and take these significant steps to attack a person, a godly person at a church. It is the opposite of what this community is about," Chief Parrish reflected.
Investigators said the church was targeted by the suspect based on "the racial demographics of the church members." Bethel AME is a predominantly black church.
The church is part of the same family of churches as the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. That’s where nine African Americans including the senior pastor and a state senator were killed on June 17, 2015, by a gunman during bible study.
Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, the Presiding Bishop of the 6th Episcopal District of AME Church said he’s worried.
“There is great concern among AME if, in fact, this denomination has a target on its back,” said Bishop Jackson.
Pastor Michelle Rizer-Poole, the Pastor at Bethal AME said the teen girl visited the church last Wednesday, usually a bible study night.
“We are glad that Bethel Gainesville did not have bible study on last Wednesday night,” said Bishop Jackson.
Gainesville Police have stepped up patrols around the church.
“They have already stepped up and assured me it would be a continual, not something that fades away,” said Pastor Rizer-Poole.
The teen was taken to the Regional Youth Detention Center in Gainesville.
“To the 16-year-old I say this it would have been awesome if you would have walked through the door and asked for help,” said Ramsey.
The name of the 16-year-old girl was not released.