A 22-year-old man voluntarily surrendered himself to the Morristown Police Department on May 30 after reportedly recognizing himself in surveillance images disseminated through the Crimestoppers program.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll, Chief of Detectives Robert M. McNally, Sheriff James Gannon, and Morristown Police Chief Darnell Richardson announced that a charge has been filed in connection with the act of vandalism perpetrated against the Church of the Redeemer's sign in Morristown on May 20, 2023.
The defendant, a 22-year-old man, voluntarily surrendered himself to the Morristown Police Department on May 30, 2023, after reportedly recognizing himself in surveillance images disseminated through the Crimestoppers program.
The footage captured a group of individuals walking east on South Street at around 1:26 a.m. on the day of the incident. The group was seen striking and damaging various signs before eventually entering two vehicles parked on Dumont Place.
Subsequent charges for criminal mischief, a third-degree crime, were laid against the defendant who was then released on summons. The comprehensive investigation concluded that no further charges were warranted for the other individuals featured in the surveillance footage.
In response to community concerns, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office undertook an extensive investigation into whether the act of vandalism should be categorized as a bias incident. This was due to the church sign's close proximity to a series of rainbow flags displayed outside the church.
However, the analysis determined that the vandalism did not meet the criteria to be classified as a bias-based or hate crime, as the evidence suggested an intent to damage property, rather than a motive of prejudice.
Prosecutor Carroll emphasized, “Based on our thorough investigation, the defendant's actions, while reprehensible, did not indicate a hate-based crime. I commend the cooperative efforts of the Morristown Police Department, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, and Crimestoppers, which led to the swift resolution of this case."
He further appreciated the prompt response of Chief Richardson and his department and expressed gratitude to Rev. Black for cooperating fully with his office, which significantly aided the investigation.
The Prosecutor concluded, "Our united response and rigorous investigation should reassure the community that we take these incidents seriously and work diligently to bring those responsible to account."