Pastors Tell KHQ Suspect In 'Hate Crime' Vandalism Thought About - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Pastors Tell KHQ Suspect In 'Hate Crime' Vandalism Thought About Burning Church Down, Asked For Forgiveness

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MEDICAL LAKE, Wash – It was just hours before services at Lake City Assembly Of God in Medical Lake Sunday, when a woman arrived to find "what looked like a tornado."

The main church building and the adjacent youth building were ransacked, profanities were spray-painted on a Sunday School classroom wall, a dozen doors were kicked down, glass windows were shattered, the vending machine was torn apart, and soda was poured into electronics, among other things.

In the two days since, Spokane County Sheriff's Deputies developed information that Joseph Knop, 23, was behind what they called the most "horrific" case of vandalism they'd every seen.

Senior Pastor Dennis Noble told KHQ, some of the messages spray-painted on the wall instilled fear into members of his congregation.

"I think in the society we live in today, you have to be concerned when somebody writes on a wall, ‘You're all dead,'" Noble said.  "You don't want someone coming in with a rifle or something like that.  So I think some of our people were a little concerned."

But in an incredible turn of events, some of the church pastors were able to meet with Knop shortly after his arrest, and tell KHQ he'd been crying, apologized and asked for forgiveness – forgiveness the church gave on the spot.

"I'll never forget the sight of walking in and seeing this church torn to shambles, and like the deputy sheriff said, this is the worst he's seen in 24 years," Noble added. "I'll never forget that, but forgiveness is a decision you make, and we decide we're going to forgive him - not hold this against him."

Pastor Noble also said Knob told them after he went on the rampage inside the church, he felt so bad that he thought about ending it all.

"He was so despondent, he'd been on drugs, and thought about taking his own life and burning this building to the ground," Noble said. "We're so glad he didn't. Doors and windows you can replace, but a human life you can not."

It turns out, Knob lives just blocks from the church, and Noble believes he attended there as a child. Noble says this last weekend he was on drugs and dealing with a lot of charged emotions.

"He's angry with God," Noble added. "He's angry with God because of some family things that have happened."

The church is showing him so much love, Noble said they'd like to help Knob get into drug counseling when he completes the court process and is finished serving his time in jail.

Court records obtained by KHQ show just one week before the $50,000 vandalism at Lake City Assembly of God, Knob was arrested for stealing credit cards from the grandfather of an acquaintance, and stole a car from a woman. 

Records show he called her the next day and said he had her car and would bring it back.  Records also show in regards to the credit cards, he told deputies he was "being stupid."

Knob was released from jail on Friday, just one day before targeting the church.  Now back in jail, he's being held on $10,000. KHQ reached out to him for comment, but our calls were not returned.

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