A New Jersey man is facing criminal charges after he was caught on camera vandalizing churches.
Zuri C. Towns, 45, has been identified as the man responsible for vandalizing five predominantly black churches on Nov. 26, NJ.com reported.
A bias investigation was initially launched following the incident. Bias was ruled out, however, once authorities saw the surveillance video outside of Church of God in Christ for All Saints, which showed Towns -- an African American man -- throwing a rock against one of the stained-glass windows.
"As a result of the investigation, 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," authorities said in a news release.
According to Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp, Towns attended one of the churches when he was a child.
Towns, who lived near all five churches, told police he acted alone. He is now facing charges of fourth-degree criminal mischief and one count of third-degree criminal mischief.
Governor-elect Phil Murphy condemned Towns' crimes as "cowardly acts." The pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church added that members of his church were so unsettled by the vandalism that they missed the Sunday service.
Bethel Church senior pastor Sidney Williams took to Facebook to issue a statement on the arrest:
In light of what took place in Charleston, SC and in Sutherland, TX, it was imperative that we opened our church doors with caution this morning. I am thankful that law enforcement handled this matter as a hate crime and took every precaution. After a thorough investigation, it was deemed by law enforcement to not be a hate crime. We have been informed that an African American has confessed to the vandalism and he is well known by the local community. The African American clergy hope to get a better understanding of his motive for vandalizing the churches and how we may be of assistance.
I am thankful to be a part of such a loving community that came together during what could have been a major crisis...
For those who are still angry or fearful, I pray that joy will come in the morning. The work of our various churches must continue. The man accused of these crimes must give an account of his actions. The damages must be repaired and hopefully people will find comfort in knowing how our community came together. There were many positives that came out of this and I am certain many more will be revealed….