Three teenage boys were charged Tuesday with stealing items from a church northwest of the Twin Cities and damaging much of the interior, including its organ, with spray from fire extinguishers.
The vandalism early on Aug. 1 in Big Lake was estimated to have caused about $129,000 in damage to Saron Lutheran Church and various items, according to a juvenile petition charging the suspects with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage.
Two of the boys are 15 years old and from Big Lake. The other is 16 years old and from Monticello. Authorities are withholding their names because of their age.
According to authorities:
The boys entered the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America worship house through an unlocked door, then stole three bicycles and several other items. While inside, they took three fire extinguishers and emptied them throughout the interior.
The sanctuary and an adjacent building were covered with the fire suppressant powder. They also sprayed directly into an organ, a piano and several electronic components.
The church was supposed to open that evening for a rummage sale held every other year to raise money for its youth group. The damaged items donated for the sale had to be discarded.
"It's been a tough month," said Saron's senior pastor, Kyle Sidlo, expressing relief that cleanup was finally done.
The organ was a primary concern, Sidlo said. It went through a thorough cleaning and restoration and is now in tip-top shape.
Congregants at the 1,400-member church "have been finding healing and finding what is more important than things," he added.
"The outpouring of love and support is far overshadowing what was meant for harm," said Sidlo, who added that insurance will cover much of the church's losses.