Church vandal charged with destruction, assault

Becky Vargo • Dec 31, 2018 at 3:36 PM

A White Cloud man caught vandalizing a Grand Haven church on Sunday faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the destruction.

Police said the man had also thrown fireworks around the building.

As a result, the 9 and 11 a.m. masses at St. Patrick Church were canceled so an explosives-sniffing K-9 could check the property. 

Anthony Lee Wabindato, 32, was charged with malicious destruction of property over $1,000, two counts of felonious assault and one count of resisting and opposing police.

He was uncooperative during the arraignment, quickly getting up and knocking over the chair as he walked away from the video camera set up at the jail.

Guards made sure he stayed in the room and listened to the judge during the arraignment.

Judge Craig Bunce set bond at $50,000 during the arraignment by video early Monday afternoon at Grand Haven District Court.

Wabindato was assigned a lawyer and then lodged at the Ottawa County Jail. Bunce also ordered that the man have a mental health evaluation before he can be released from jail.

Grand Haven Public Safety officers responded to St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish, corner of Beacon Boulevard and Fulton Street, shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday.

The initial call was about a disorderly person in the building.

Arriving officers saw a man with no shirt on holding what appeared to be a stick and threatening another man with it, said Lt. Chip Wright, during the warrant hearing prior to the arraignment.

The man, identified as Wabindato, proceeded outside and ignored commands by police to drop the stick, Wright said. Police used a Taser to subdue the man before placing him in handcuffs and checking him medically.

Wright said the man destroyed two televisions valued at $2,000, an office chair and a picture — all in the gathering area of the church.

When police smelled something burning, they found a shirt smoldering in a microwave. That shirt was identified as one the suspect had been wearing earlier, Wright said.

Police found 15 M5000 “super” firecrackers “scattered around the church in different areas,” Wright told the judge.

Some smaller firecrackers were also found, according to police.

A Michigan State Place K-9 officer was used to check the property and the church was all clear and back open for business early Sunday afternoon.

In a press conference Sunday, Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said the man broke a chair and used a dowel from it as his weapon.

A church employee being threatened had to fend off the attack, Hawke said. That employee was not injured.

“I’m grateful that nobody got hurt,” said Father Charles Schwartz, pastor of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish. “I appreciate Grand Haven Public Safety and all those who responded. They were wonderful in every regard to take care of us in a situation like that.”

Schwartz said the staff has had trainings with police for emergency situations, but wouldn’t comment further.

“I appreciate the support, prayers and resiliency of this parish and the wider Grand Haven community as well,” Schwartz said. “We’re okay and we’re going to be okay. Certainly we’re going to need prayers for him too.”

Wabindato’s criminal history includes a 2006 drunken driving and possession of marijuana charge in Grand Haven. A 2015 assault and battery charge in Newaygo County was dismissed.

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