Buddhist temple in Arkansas vandalized

National / World

"I am saddened by this apparent act of religious intolerance and am grateful that our officers were able to apprehend the suspect."

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Buddhist temple in Fort Smith was vandalized on Sunday by a hammer-wielding man who took the heads off three statues housed on the temple grounds.

Shawn Michael Israel, 21, was arrested after Fort Smith police say they arrived on scene at Wat Lao Santitham to find him “beating on a gold Buddha statue, with a hammer, causing severe damage to it.”

Responding officers report Israel said he had to destroy the “false idols.” Police also noted the 21-year-old was in possession of a Bible at the time of his arrest.

Shawn Michael Israel

Israel was charged with criminal mischief in the 1st degree and transported to Sebastian County Detention Center.

“This incident has left many of the elderly members of the temple feeling hurt, speechless, and uneasy as the peaceful temple that they’ve visited every week in what had been a quiet area for decades has lost it tranquility,” wrote Thy Sorluangsana in an online fundraiser for temple repairs.

Damage is estimated at around $10,000.

“I am saddened by this apparent act of religious intolerance and am grateful that our officers were able to apprehend the suspect,” said Fort Smith Police Chief Danny Baker.

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