A 16-year-old girl who is accused of planning to murder members of a predominantly black church went to “great lengths” to plan the attack, police said.
The girl, who was not identified because she is a minor, collected multiple knives, such as kitchen and butcher knives, before she was arrested and charged for the alleged plot at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish told reporters Tuesday night.
She had also allegedly visited the church once in the weeks before her arrest, but no services were in session.
“By the grace of God and by divine intervention, at the time she went to the church there was nobody there, and they weren’t having church at the time,” Parrish said.
“She went to great lengths to plan it, to get weapons and launch her attack on the church,” Parrish added.
Police determined that the church had been “targeted by the juvenile based on the racial demographic of the church members,” according to a statement. She was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder.
School administrators were the ones first notified of the alleged attack after other students found the teenager’s notebook that laid out the alleged plot, prompting them to contact school counselors at Gainesville High School, according to police.
Dr. Jeremy Williams, superintendent of Gainesville City School System, said he was “stunned” over the arrest.
“A single act by a student does not represent the views and beliefs of Gainesville City School System. As a school system that celebrates our diversity, we are beyond stunned with the recent development,” Williams said in a statement to ABC News. “However, we are extremely proud of our students notifying school administration of a possible off-campus threat.”
Bishop Reginald Jackson, the presiding bishop of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal that is made up of more than 500 churches, told reporters that “it ought to bother us in the state of Georgia this young girl this young woman cannot be charged with a hate crime.”
Georgia is one of four states in the country that does not have hate crime laws.
“This incident raises very serious issues and also raises questions that need to be answered,” Jackson said.
The teenager is being held at the Regional Youth Detention Center.