Zuri C. Towns, 45, was arrested by police detectives on Sunday and charged with four counts of criminal mischief, a fourth degree crime, and one count of criminal mischief, a third degree offense.
“Mr. Towns provided a statement to police confirming his involvement in these incidents and confirmed that he acted alone. The defendant previously attended services at one of the vandalized churches as a minor,” Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp said in a statement released Sunday evening.
Knapp added that “no evidence was obtained that would indicate this was a bias incident, which legally requires purpose to intimidate a person or group based upon their protected class.”
Towns, who lived near several of the churches, was issued summons complaints pending a court appearance.
Shattered exterior signs were discovered on Saturday morning at Bethel A.M.E., Calvary Baptist Church and Union Baptist Church in Morristown; and at the Morristown Church of Christ in Morris Township.
A stained glass window was broken at the Church of God in Christ for All Saints in Morristown.
“I’m glad it wasn’t bias,” said the Rev. Carol Lynn Paterson of Calvary Baptist Church.
Police were stationed outside the churches during Sunday morning services, and at least one pastor, the Rev. Sidney Williams Jr. of Bethel A.M.E., said some of his congregants stayed home because, during this era of church shootings, they were fearful.
Williams said the community’s response over the weekend has made him proud to live here.
“The community came together. Things easily could have spun out of control,” he said.
Mayor Tim Dougherty, who visited the affected churches on Sunday morning with Councilwoman Hiliari Davis, praised the police for their fast work, and residents for their outpouring of support for the churches.
“Cory Booker said back in January, if you want to see a Beloved Community, come to Morristown. I believe him,” the Mayor said, recounting the Democratic Senator’s appearance at his campaign kickoff.
The “Beloved Community” was Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for a healthy society.
Knapp singled out Pastors Robert Rogers of the Church of God in Christ and Craig Dunn of the Morristown Church of Christ for special thanks, along with his investigators and police in Morristown and Morris Township.