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Suspects in vandalism of local church identified

The church's pastor said he found the back door of his church kicked in and the walls of his sanctuary splattered with racially and religiously-offensive graffiti.

MCDONOUGH, Ga. — Authorities say they have identified the people they believe spray painted offensive, Satanic messages inside a local church.

On March 19, Henry County Police officers responded to the Seed Planters Church McDonough, off Highway 81 East, not far from Interstate-75. That's where the church's pastor, Daunta Long, said he found the back door of the church kicked in and the walls of his sanctuary splattered with racially and religiously-offensive graffiti.

PREVIOUS | Henry Co. church vandalized with offensive graffiti

Police began canvasing the area around the church to search for clues, but investigators said during the course of the search, one of the suspects called 911 to turn himself into police. Investigators were able to identify the suspects as 19-year-old Nathanial E. Rabideau of McDonough and 19-year-old Tyler A. Casey of Monroe. The Henry County Sheriff's Office obtained a warrant for each, and both men will be charged with burglary, criminal damage to property and vandalism to a place of worship. Neither have been booked into jail yet.

PHOTOS | McDonough church splattered with offensive graffiti

In the hours after the vandalism was discovered, Long told 11Alive the church had not yet opened, and was still preparing for its first service. 11Alive's Neima Abdulahi asked Long if he thought the demographics of the area may have played a part in the vandalism. The area where the church is being developed is predominantly white, while the church's congregation is primarily African American.

"This is a predominantly white community, and some of the vulgarity was anti-black, racist, and the church hasn't opened yet," Abdulahi stated. "Do you feel that this was to discourage the opening of the church – or in reaction to the church opening?"

"I think that what these culprits decided to do was to offset us," Long replied. "We've spent a lot of time and a lot of money promoting the opening. Our first service will be on Easter Sunday, and literally, only 13 days before, do we find this disturbing scene."

However, Long said he and his congregation would not let the crude messages deter them.

"One of the things that we want to let those responsible for this heinous act know is that we still love them," Long said. "We do not have malice in our heart. If there is any way we can help, if there is any way we can be a blessing to them, then certainly we want to extend ourselves because we are not individuals that hate people.”

Long said he will be in contact with a security firm to add a state-of-the-art security system to the sanctuary, and that while the vandalism is a setback, Seed Planters Church McDonough still plans to begin services in that location on Easter Sunday.

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