Police arrested a man on hate crime charges after racist and threatening messages were posted on the front doors of a Dumfries, Virginia, church.
Michael Todd Birkl, 49, was arrested Thursday and charged with placing a swastika on church property with intent to intimidate and interfering with property rights, police said. The actions are considered hate crimes, according to police.
Police say someone gave them a tip Thursday that led to Birkl's arrest.
The suspect was arrested at his Triangle, Virginia home, and is now being held without bond until his Nov. 8 court date.
Court records show that Birkl was arrested on charges of malicious wounding and attempted carjacking in December 2015.
Flyers bearing swastikas, messages of white power and an image from a German satire magazine depicting President Donald Trump as a member of the Klu Klux Klan were posted at Greater Praise Temple Ministries Aug. 27.
"They were just people that had hatred. I don’t know why," said Apostle William Thompson Jr., the pastor for the family-owned church.
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine met with members of the church Aug. 31.
"For some reason, people are bringing their hatred here," Kaine said. "There are some bitter people who want to come here and create trouble because they don't like seeing us moving on."
CJ Thompson, Thompson's 16-year-old grandson, said he has studied the KKK in school, but never expected to deal with such racism first-hand.
"You know I thought I would just learn about it and live my life and never interact with it," he said.
Apostle Thompson was in the hospital battling a life-threatening disease when the incident took place. He was recently released and is preaching a message of forgiveness.
"Let them know that we forgive them and we love them as well, and we’re praying for them," Thompson said about the perpetrators.
This is not the first time Thompson and his family have been threatened. He told News4 that earlier this year, a mysterious truck pulled up to them. The people inside the vehicle called them names and made hand gestures.
"And before you know it, we heard some shooting," said Pastor Thompson. No one was injured.
"I have kids. I want to raise my children to love everyone. So I have to be an example of that, but at the same time they have to be aware that there’s hatred around," said Thompson's son, Eric Thompson.
Police are investigating the incident as possible hate crime.