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Thieves break into Lemon Grove church, raid food pantry

Thieves break into Lemon Grove church, raid food pantry
Posted at 4:30 PM, Feb 15, 2022

LEMON GROVE, Calif. (KGTV) - Thieves broke into a church in Lemon Grove, causing damage and raiding the food pantry.

At St. John of the Cross Parish, there is a trail of destruction and theft.

“It's such a feeling of violation,” said Jennifer Mendoza, the church’s food pantry manager, and a Lemon Grove councilmember.

She says last Tuesday, past 2 a.m., a security guard at a nearby construction project called 911 after noticing suspicious activity at the church.

“Observed multiple people here on the church grounds, and several trucks,” said Mendoza.

Deputies detained two but made no arrests. The trucks that were spotted were gone, along with many items in the food pantry: 10 boxes of diapers, three large boxes of fruit and vegetables, and bulk tins of tuna. The church’s food pantry has been serving those in need for more than two decades.

"For someone to steal from people in need, it just feels particularly despicable,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza says the intruders also left behind plenty of damage. A window of the church was shattered. An American flag was removed and burned. Removed was inside the church hall—near the food pantry door—was a crucifix.

Only three pieces of the 3-foot-long wooden crucifix remain. They were found in a shopping cart near the front of the church.

Before it ended up there, Mendoza believes it may have been used to batter, then wedge the pantry door open.

“It's quite possible that's what they use to jam the door down, which makes me feel sicker … Just felt like a particular kick in the gut to steal from a church that’s already struggling financial during the pandemic, as a lot of churches are,” said Mendoza.

The church suffered several thousand dollars in damage.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to send tips to Joseph.Garay@sdsheriff.org.

If you're interested in making a donation to the church pantry, donations are accepted Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and noon.