Members of Concord Fortress of Hope Church in Kansas City, a predominantly African-American church, arrived Sunday morning for worship and were shocked by what they saw. A racist slurs and the letters “KKK” were spray-painted on the building and an office has been set on fire.
An even bigger surprise came later: the man accused of defacing the church is not only Black but also a church employee. His crack addiction appears to be at the root of his confessed crime. Many members are no doubt weighing whether he deserves justice or mercy.
CBS News affiliate KCTV-5 reported that federal prosecutors charged 48-year-old Nathaniel D. Nelson on Monday with arson to cover up his burglary.
As a church custodian, Nelson had access to most areas of the building. The news outlet said Nelson confessed to authorities that he set fire to an office chair and painted the racist graffiti to confuse investigators.
He entered the church on Saturday night to smoke crack. After getting high, he attempted to break into the financial office to steal money so that he could buy more of the drug. Unable to get in, he used his key to enter two other offices where he stole a total of $234.
With that money, Nelson purchased crack and went back to the church where he stole money from a vending machine to make a second purchase of the drug.
While the crack epidemic has receded, an estimated 6.2 million U.S. residents aged 12 and older used crack at least once in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which also notes that cocaine is far more addictive when smoked.