MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The man Whitten Memorial Baptist Church suspects of stealing nearly $20,000 was caught on camera in the act and they are hoping he can be identified.
According to camera footage from Sunday night around 9:50 pm, the suspect is seen trying to open doors and windows around the church for 40 minutes. In the police report, it said church administrators were unsure how he could have gotten into the building even after reviewing the footage.
Associate Pastor Josiah Shipley said he feels "violated" after reviewing the cameras and seeing the suspect wander the church for hours.
"Someone was in our home for seven hours last night uninvited and unannounced," Shipley said.
Shipley said they are still trying to figure out how the suspect could have entered the building after a security guard told them all the doors were locked that night. However, he wonders if a window could have been left unlocked.
"I got here this morning at 7:20 am and I immediately noticed the brown van was missing," Shipley said.
Shipley said one of the unmarked vans the church uses for their youth ministry was used as the getaway car for the suspect. He assumes it was hotwired because the keys were still inside the building. Speakers, watches, and medical supplies were also taken and loaded into the van.
The church's children's director, Michelle Romo, said it made her emotional thinking about how much growth the program had made before this happened.
"Hopefully we can pray for this guy and teach these kids we need to forgive this person," Romo said.
Shipley said they will pray for the suspect because if this man had asked for help, they would have been more than willing to give him what he needed.
"He goes into the fridge and gets himself some food as if we wouldn’t just give someone food if they came and asked," Shipley said.
The church estimates the out of pocket cost to replace the stolen items will be around $20,000, which they will need to fundraise.
If you have any information about this incident, you are urged to call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.