A 16-year-old girl was arrested by Georgia police for planning to violently attack a predominantly African-American congregation.
The girl, who is white, had planned to engage in an attack of some kind at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Hall County, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder and placed in the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center. Her name has not been released to the public.
Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish explained on Tuesday that he believes the planned attack was racially motivated.
“Our investigation indicated the church was targeted by the juvenile based on the racial demographic of the church members,” stated Parrish, as reported by the Journal-Constitution.
“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.”
Parrish told WSB-TV Atlanta that the teenager had taken active steps in her plan, having collected knives and having visited the church at least once.
Students who knew the teenager became aware of her plans and reported them to school officials, who in turn contacted authorities. Parrish explained that the girl’s parents are cooperating with police.
“This is an active investigation and a prime example of how strong relationships between the student body, school administration and law enforcement can intercept a potentially horrific incident,” stated Parrish, as reported by WSB.
AME Bishop Reginald Jackson of the Sixth Episcopal District, which covers Georgia, expressed thanks that the attempted attack on the church was prevented.
“We are thankful to God that this plot was stopped before anybody was either killed or injured,” stated Jackson, as reported by WSB.
“It is even more troubling a 16-year-old girl idolized Dylann Roof, who carried out the massacre at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.”
In June, a federal grand jury filed hate crimes charges against a white Louisiana man who allegedly committed arson against three historical African-American churches.
Holden James Matthews was charged with six counts related to the attacks on St. Mary’s Baptist Church of Port Barre, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church of Opelousas, which happened earlier this year over a span of about two weeks.
Matthews, the son of a sheriff’s deputy, reportedly had a strong interest in Black Metal, a musical genre known for having anti-Christian themes, and frequently used racial slurs.