‘It was hate:’ Religious statue destroyed outside St. Adalbert Parish in Milwaukee, suspect in custody

MILWAUKEE -- A religious statue was destroyed outside St. Adalbert Parish, located near 19th and Becher in Milwaukee. A suspect shattered a statue of the Virgin Mary around 8:45 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6.

The church has placed a small statue in place of the vandalized piece. It will stay until they can get a new one. Meanwhile, the priest said he forgives the suspect responsible for the crime.

Camerina Peralta

"I couldn't believe someone with so much hate would do that," said Camerina Peralta.

Peralta took pride in cleaning the statue before it was vandalized.

"It was a really big blessing for me," said Peralta.

Witnesses say the man responsible busted down the statue with a metal pole.

"He hit it harder and harder and then he started to break it," said Ernosta Nava.

The beating and banging echoed through the neighborhood.

"It was beyond vandalism, beyond racism. It was hate," said Father Mauricio Fernandez.

Father Fernandez is the parish priest.

"The community is deeply hurt now. It is deeply hurt," said Ferndandez.

By noon on Tuesday, dozens gathered for Mass. They came with bowed heads and humble hearts. "God gave us peace" was repeated in Spanish during the service. Father Fernandez said prayer and forgiveness will help everyone heal.

Mauricio Fernandez

"I'm hopeful that through prayer, we may be united. We may be united and do something good for our neighborhood," said Father Fernandez.

Parishioners said their faith is everlasting.

"I'm not nobody to judge him, but I just hope he finds the forgiveness of God," said Peralta.

Police have a suspect in custody. Father Fernandez said he hopes to have a new statue in the coming days.