VIDEO: Burglary suspect accused of desecrating Anaheim church

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- Police are searching for a burglary suspect caught on surveillance video in the hallways of the St. Gregory Coptic Orthodox Church.

Father Moses Samaan said his community's place of worship was violated, when an altar where only clergy are allowed was ransacked.

Surveillance video caught the person, who appeared to be a man, looking for something through the halls of the church.

Vessels used to hold what this community believes is the body of Christ were found on the ground.

"The things that were desecrated and stolen, for us, those are holy and precious and to see them strewn on the floor, to see them desecrated in that way, is a huge emotional and psychological shock for us," Samaan said, adding, "It was clear that the touched them."

Samaan said after getting an alert from the church's security system about an open door, a volunteer raced to check it out to find someone had been inside early Wednesday morning.

Signs throughout the property leave no doubt this church is under surveillance by a security system. Samaan pointed out the window he said the suspect used to get inside. The screen was damaged and though it's labeled with a security sticker, Samaan said it wasn't enough to keep the person out.

"This office was closed and as you can see the deadbolt is still locked, but he kicks this door open and you can see from the inside of the door here he destroys the frame," Samaan said.

Pictures sent to Eyewitness News show damage to doorways inside the church, sacred items thrown on the ground of the altar and a ransacked church office.

Anaheim police were seen in the recording arriving in a hallway just more than an hour after the suspect left it.

Samaan said sacred, hand-made, irreplaceable items were gone along with at least $2,000 worth of electronics, "such as iPads, Apple TVs, projectors, speakers."

As detectives with the Anaheim Police Department searched for a suspect and cause Thursday afternoon, this congregation was reminded of its ancestors' escape from Egypt to the United States in search of religious freedom.

"When an event like this happens, of course, it triggers our minds to our history and what happened to us in the past and it leaves us wondering what was the motivation here," Samaan said, adding, "We forgive him and that we're praying for him and hoping that he comes to his senses and that God leads him to repentance."

Samaan said the church has been located on La Palma Avenue for the last two years.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.