A 16-year-old girl has been arrested after authorities discovered her plan to kill people at a predominantly black church in Hall County.
The teen, who is white, planned to attack the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, according to Gainesville police.
“Our investigation indicated the church was targeted by the juvenile based on the racial demographic of the church members,” police Chief Jay Parrish said Tuesday in a news release. “The church was immediately notified of the incident by Gainesville police to ensure the safety of our community and the current threat was under control.”
It’s not clear how the girl planned to carry out the attack, but Parrish said the teen collected knives.
Gainesville High School administrators learned of the alleged plot from students who told them the girl had a notebook with “detailed plans to commit murder” at the church, Parrish said.
Administrators notified school resource officers of the plan Friday and opened an investigation. They verified the threat and turned the investigation over to Gainesville police, who took the girl into custody, Parrish said.
Her name has not been released.
“While we are very concerned about this incident, we are not surprised,” Bishop Reginald T. Jackson said in a statement Tuesday. Jackson is presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes the Hall County AME church.
“Hate crimes and domestic terrorism have been on the rise for many years, but it is unfortunate we cannot have this perpetrator prosecuted on hate crimes in Georgia because there is no law on the books to address it.”
Pastor Michelle Rizer-Pool said the girl visited her church last Wednesday, but no events were scheduled that night. Bible study is usually held on Wednesday nights.
The teen was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder and taken to the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center.
Jackson wants the girl tried as an adult. “To plan this kind of event is not that of a childish mind,” he said.
Gainesville police’s investigation continues.
“This is … a prime example of how strong relationships between the student body, school administration and law enforcement can intercept a potentially horrific incident,” Parrish said.
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