Rainbow Pride flag ripped and a group is pepper sprayed outside an Asbury Park church

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Outside of Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park, NJ
Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park file photo

Law enforcement agencies investigate the possible “bias incident” 

Asbury Park’s Trinity Episcopal Church experienced what Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago is calling a “possible bias-motivated incident.” Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating the disturbance. 

On the night of Friday, Jan. 27, Asbury Park’s Trinity Episcopal Church hosted a concert to benefit a New Jersey-based anti-racist organization. Following the concert, between 9 pm and 10:30 pm an “unidentified person attempted to pepper-spray a group of people outside Trinity Church’s community building,” Reverend Chase Danford said in a released statement

“The unknown person or persons also threw smoke bombs outside the venue,” Danford said. “Thankfully, no one was injured.”

That same evening, the church’s LGBTQ Pride flag was also ripped from its post and torn. The same flag has been vandalized twice previously in recent months, Danford said. 

The Asbury Park Police Department immediately launched an investigation into the possible bias incident, a released statement from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said. The investigation remains active and ongoing at this time.  

“The Asbury Park Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office take any allegation of bias extremely seriously and, as a result, will be working in conjunction with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, under the direction of Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, and the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, to investigate this matter,” the statement reads. “Prosecutor Santiago wished to remind the public that any act of bias, perceived or otherwise, towards a race and/or religious group, will not be tolerated in our local communities.” 

In Trinity Episcopal Church’s statement about this recent experience, the church acknowledged another recent violent attack that occurred in Bloomfield, N.J., where a man, wearing a ski-mask, hurled Molotov cocktails at Temple Ner Tamid on Sunday, Jan. 29. The church affirms their belief in combating the uptick in hatred. 

“The leadership of the Diocese of New Jersey and of Trinity Church affirm The Episcopal Church’s baptismal commitment to love one’s neighbors as one’s self and to respect the dignity of every human being,” the church said. “We condemn hatred and violence in all its forms.”

Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality, issued a statement about the incident. “We’ve seen an increase in bias incidents over the past few years and it’s an unfortunate reminder that even in the Garden State, there is hate among us that must be addressed,” Fuscarino said. “Nobody deserves to feel unsafe in their place of worship because of the color of their skin or because of who they love.”  

Back in late November of last year, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin, warning minority communities of this influx of domestic terrorist attacks. The targets listed as victims of this “potential violence”  included, “public gatherings, faith-based institutions, the LGBTQI+ community, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents.”  

While the investigation into the Trinity Episcopal Church possible bias incident remains ongoing, law enforcement is urging anyone who has any information on Friday night’s incident to contact Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Brian Hammarstrom at 800-533-7443 or Asbury Park Police Department Detective Anthony Troublefield at 732-774-1300.  Detective Sergeant Brian Christensen and Detective Samer Abboud from the Attorney General’s Office, Division of Criminal Justice, are also assisting with the investigation.

Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about this or any crime can submit a tip to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by calling their confidential telephone tip-line at 1-800-671-4400, downloading and using the free P3 Tips mobile app (available on iOS and Android – https://www.p3tips.com/1182), calling 800-671-4400, or going to www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.

Chelsey Johnstone
Out In Jersey News Editor Chelsey Johnstone is an award-winning multimedia journalist and editor with a passion for honest reporting. A recent graduate of Montclair State University, Chelsey has spent over 5 years writing for publications such as The College VOICE, TrentonDaily, Unclear Magazine, Montclair Local News and more. Now, Chelsey is working to advance her journalist skills at Out in Jersey Magazine with the hope of positively impacting the world of reporting.