SANTA CRUZ (KCBS) – Police in Santa Cruz are on the lookout for a vandal or vandals who severely damaged one of the original California missions.

Work crews scrubbed paint and graffiti from the bell tower of the Holy Cross Church on Tuesday as members of the Catholic community struggled to understand the extreme case of vandalism reported early Sunday morning.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

“We try to have a little compassion for whoever did it, but it just seems so senseless,” said Bill Johnson, a PE teacher at the Holy Cross School in Santa Cruz.

In addition to the graffiti, the vandal or vandals broke windows, poured paint on statues and even went so far as to destroy a baptismal font, which was brought to the mission by Father Junipero Serra over two centuries ago.

“We do know that there were some priceless items that were damaged that date back to the creation of the mission and the church that are a few hundred years old and cannot be replaced,” said Santa Cruz Police spokesman Zach Friend.

Police are reviewing surveillance video as part of their investigation into a possible hate crime.

Deacon Warren Hoy, spokesman for the Diocese of Monterey, said the graffiti messages seemed directed at injustices done to Native Americans.

“One said this is for my ancestors,” he said.

Hoy said they are praying for both the congregation and for the vandals.

Anyone with information on the crime is asked to contact the Santa Cruz Police Department.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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