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A man with a lengthy criminal history was arrested by El Paso police for allegedly destroying a 90-year-old statue of Jesus because his skin color was “wrong.”
Police arrested Isaiah Cantrell, 30, on charges of criminal mischief and marijuana possession, KVIA reported, adding that the suspect is being held on $20,500 bond.
According to court records obtained by the station, Cantrell told police the “skin color of the statue was the wrong color,” adding, “Jesus was Jewish and therefore should be a darker skin color.”
Following the destruction of the statue, the Catholic Diocese of El Paso announced it would set up a fund to pay for repairing the statue, which has been estimated to be worth around $25,000.
Church officials said that Cantrell boldly walked into the St. Patrick Cathedral Tuesday morning and destroyed the statue, called the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located behind the main altar.
Diocesan officials released a photo to the media Tuesday afternoon when announcing the statue had been toppled. Most of the statue’s head was shattered and its right arm was broken off.
“This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus – his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us,” Bishop Mark Seitz said about the historic statue, according to a Facebook post.
“I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass,” Seitz added.
The bishop said he did not know much about Cantrell.
“At this point, we do not know anything about the person who carried out this assault, but he certainly must be a person who is greatly disturbed to have attacked this peaceful place in our city and this image of the King of Peace. I hope this might be the impetus for him to receive the help he needs. He will be in my prayers,” he continued.
“I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be. In this moment we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented and I know he will console us,” Seitz said.
“I am in shock and we at the Cathedral are heartbroken over such an unexpected situation,” added Fr. Trini Fuentes, the Rector of the Cathedral.
Cantrell has been arrested a number of times — all misdemeanors — including several times in September alone, according to KTSM. He was arrested Sept. 3 on charges he assaulted a peace officer/judge. On Sept. 8, he was arrested again and charged with resisting arrest, search, and transport.
He was arrested the following day for possession of marijuana under two ounces and resisting arrest. Police picked him up again Wednesday for marijuana possession.
The El Paso Times reported that Cantrell has a criminal record dating back at least to 2010.
The paper also reported that churches in the city “saw a rash of vandalism” last year. A year ago this month, the FBI put up rewards totaling $15,000 for any information that led to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for three acts of arson at Catholic churches in El Paso.
“St. Matthew Catholic Church, St. Patrick Cathedral and St. Jude Catholic Church sustained damage from incendiary devices on May 7, May 13 and June 15, respectively,” the El Paso Times reported.
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