Police: Man attacks church worker, plants firecrackers

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A man was arrested Sunday morning after allegedly vandalizing a Catholic church in Grand Haven, planting fireworks in the building and attacking a worker.

Authorities confirmed the suspect is 32-year-old Anthony Lee Wabindato of the White Cloud area. He was booked into the Ottawa County Jail, though it’s not yet clear precisely what charges he faces for the incident at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Catholic Parish.

“I don’t know his motive. There’s nothing to suggest that there’s any connection between him and that church,”  Grand Haven Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hawke said.

Police say said the church at Fulton Street and Beacon Boulevard was open when Wabindato entered shortly after 7 a.m.

Investigators say he broke a chair and then used part of it to assault a parishioner who was setting up for Mass.

“He came at him with the dowel. The church employee had to fight him, fend him off,” Hawke said.

The employee is OK.

A parishioner called 911. When police arrived, the suspect threatened them with the dowel. Officers used a Taser on him and he was arrested, police on the scene told 24 Hour News 8.

Officers swept of the church and discovered the suspect had vandalized the building and broken a television.

“The suspect also placed M5000 ‘Jumbo’ firecrackers in multiple locations inside and outside the building,” Hawke wrote on the department’s Facebook page.

The fireworks were never lit. 

A bomb-sniffing dog from the Michigan State Police was brought in to check out the church. It didn’t find anything else and around 1 p.m., police said there was no further threat.

“The 9:00 and 11:00 AM Masses are canceled this morning due to a small incident. Mass is available @ St. Mary’s in Spring Lake at 11:00 AM,” a Facebook post from the church said.

The post was later revised to remove the word “small.”

Some parishioners who hadn’t heard the news showed up for the 11 a.m. service to see the building closed and police on scene.

“This bothers me. This is my place. This is our home,” Steve Shannon, who has been a member of the church for some 20 years, told 24 Hour News 8 on the scene. “This hits home. If this is kids and vandalism, that’s one thing. But when we’re talking explosives that’s a totally different thing.

“I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. This is Grand Haven. This is our hometown. Everybody knows everybody. This is one of the nicest places to be. We chose Grand Haven because this is a wonderful place to raise a family and come here and worship,” he continued. “To have somebody just not really put any thought into that and do this. This is not good.”

Police said they believe the suspect acted alone. On Sunday afternoon, Wabindato’s mother told 24 Hour News 8 she didn’t know how he wound up in Ottawa County.

He has a history of mental illness and using meth, his mother said. Officers who responded to the scene believed he was also under the influence of a controlled substance.

Online records from Michigan State Police show Wabindato has a criminal history dating back to 2005 that includes convictions for felony home invasion, misdemeanor drunken driving, felony fleeing police and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

—24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker and Brady Gillum contributed to this report.

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