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News / Northwest

Four people charged with hate crime in connection with June vandalism of Spokane Valley church

By Emma Epperly, The Spokesman-Review
Published: March 8, 2024, 7:30am

SPOKANE — Four people have been charged with a hate crime offense related to vandalism at Veradale United Church of Christ last June.

Katherine Blycker, 22; Brigid Shannon, 21; John Dawson Rhodes, 21; and Jacob Easton, 22, were each charged with one count of a hate crime on Feb. 15.

Rev. Gen Heywood arrived at the church, 611 N. Progress Road in Spokane Valley, on June 25 to find the congregation’s colorful Pride flags gone and a strong odor of diesel fuel.

It took her a few hours to realized that the fuel sprayed on the church’s lawn spelled out “Lev 2013,” an apparent reference to Leviticus 20:13, a Bible verse often used to condemn gay people.

“The Leviticus in diesel, that became on the border of terrorism,” Heywood said at the time. “It was a threat, and it smelled like a threat.”

Veradale is an open and affirming church, with a large portion of its members in the LGBTQ+ community.

“Everybody is welcome,” Heywood said.

After the initial response from Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies, an investigator followed up in July, according to court documents.

He used a neighbor’s surveillance footage to locate the car pictured transporting the vandals.

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The investigator was able to identify Blycker, who agreed to be interviewed at the Spokane Valley Police Department in mid-August.

She told investigators that she and a friend and their boyfriends committed the vandalism, according to court records.

Blycker said she couldn’t remember the exact verse one of the boys sprayed on the lawn, but “it had to do with Christians hating LGBTQ, which she said wasn’t true and she regrets the situation,” according to court documents.

Shannon, Rhodes and Easton did not speak with police, according to court records.

Investigators referred the investigation to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office in November, according to Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Preston McCollam.

It took another few weeks to get the case assigned, he said. The four people were charged via summons in February.

Heywood said she’s grateful the group was charged. She blamed systemic issues in the school system and Spokane Valley community with not correcting this type of behavior before it escalated.

“They don’t just start with vandalizing the church,” she said. “They have been bullying or intimidating.”

While Heywood said it’s important the group bears the consequences of their behavior, she hopes the young adults grow and change their views.

“I’d like them to have a change of heart,” Heywood said. “Whatever toxic soup they were in, I’d like them to be put free of that.”

A Hate Crime Offense is a class C felony.