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Burglar in priestly robe steals antique religious objects from Ocean Beach church

Burglar dons priestly robe, makes off with antique religious objects in Ocean Beach church break-in
Posted at 4:13 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 21:30:54-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Surveillance video shows a burglar emerging from an Ocean Beach church Saturday, wearing a robe, carrying a staff, and loaded bags of antique religious objects.

Ransacked rooms greeted Director of Operations Jeff Green Saturday when he walked into the Episcopal Church Center on Sunset Cliffs Blvd., headquarters for the local Episcopal Diocese.

"It's disgusting and disheartening ... It felt like I was walking into a crime scene on a movie set or something," said Green.

Surveillance video revealed what happened. Just past 2 a.m., two men, one holding a skateboard, hopped over a church wall. One of them, armed with a knife, is seen ripping open some delivered packages outside the church. The other person can be seen opening packages.

What happens next isn’t on video but the result was a shattered window in the sacristy, the room where priests prepare for services. Inside was a mess.

"All the shelves and drawers were open, things hanging out of drawers," said Green.

About three hours later, one of the men with a large bag and backpack -- wearing a priest’s robe and wielding a religious staff -- is seen leaving through a chapel window. Inside the bags: some five antique silver dishes, several silver chalices, and four bottles of communion wine. The total value lost was upwards of $5,000.

"How could anybody do this to a church that’s trying to help people, especially during this pandemic?" said Green.

Throughout the pandemic, the church has continued to serve the homeless population, including food distribution and mail services, along with religious services which will now be missing some cherished objects, courtesy of two thieves.

"What bothers me the most is that if these two people had just come to us and said they needed something, we probably would have given it to them. They felt they needed to break in and steal things and desecrate our sacristy. That’s what’s disheartening," said Green.

Along with the loss from the theft, the burglars also caused about $1,000 in damage.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call San Diego Police at 619-531-2000 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.