CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Churches were forced to close their doors over a month ago to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately for Gabriel Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Chesapeake, someone took that as an opportunity to vandalize it — not just once, but four times.

“There were like six holes in one window and then about six or seven in the other and that, of course, did not cause it to shatter, so they came back,” said the church’s pastor Sandi Brandon-Hutchinson.

Brandon-Hutchinson says whoever did this used stones to knock out two of the church’s big stained glass windows.

Since then, all the windows have been boarded up. She doesn’t know how long they will stay that way, as the repairs will cost over $10,000.

Chesapeake Police say the vandalism happened on April 4, 10, 12, and 14.

“We think they had to use some type of apparatus, whether it was a huge slingshot or some type of air gun, because the windows are extremely thick. The glass is like Coca-Cola bottle thick,” she explained.

Brandon-Hutchinson says it was shocking at first, especially considering the history of the church and what it means to the community.

She says the church was built 154 years ago and is the site of the first developed community for freed slaves in the state of Virginia. The congregation consists of about 100 people, several of whom are in their 90s. One member is even 106. They say they’ve never had anything like this happen in the church’s history.

“I guess if I had a message, it would be that whatever caused them to do this, that they would look into their hearts and understand they aren’t just destroying our building. What they did impacted a legacy of people,” she said.

She says at the time, they did not have surveillance cameras. When the community found out what happened, they pitched in to buy cameras, which were installed this week.

Chesapeake Police say the incidents are still under investigation.

They have no suspect description at this time.

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