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Zachary Stauffer, left, and Bryce Martin have been charged after they were accused of shooting at a church in Morgan County.

Four teens arrested for Morgan County church shooting considered hate crime

Four people, including two minors, have been charged with a shooting at a Mennonite church building in Morgan County, Mo., last weekend. Authorities consider the act a hate crime.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office in Versailles said four teenage suspects were taken into custody after allegedly shooting dozens of 9mm pistol rounds at Clearview Church of Morgan County on Saturday. Officers arrested 18-year-old Bryce Martin of Fortuna, 18-year-old Zachary Stauffer of Versailles and two minors aged 14 and 17 after they allegedly fired at least 50 rounds of ammunition into the church building.

Dustin Dunklee, Morgan County prosecuting attorney, charged Martin with unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action and first-degree property damage. Stauffer was charged with first-degree property damage and armed criminal action.

“Bryce Martin and Zachary Stauffer are being held in the Morgan County jail with no bond,” Sheriff Norman Dills said. “The property damage is charged as a hate crime This is an ongoing investigation, and evidence is continuing to be seized. An incident at a second church in Morgan County is still under investigation.”

The two juveniles were transferred to the Juvenile Justice Center in Camdenton. Authorities seized three 9mm handguns, ammunition and a vehicle. While investigating the apparent shooting, investigators learned that a church in Moniteau County had been vandalized.

It is not immediately clear what the motivation was for the shooting at Clearview Church. According to a report issued by the Family Research Council last December, there have been around 420 acts of hostility against churches in the United States over the past five years. Additionally, 57 hostile acts that occurred between January and September 2022 were related to the abortion debate.

“Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property are likely symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship and religion — in this case, churches and Christianity,” said Arielle Del Turco, assistant director of the Center for Religious Liberty.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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