Share this article

print logo

Pastor, facing charges, says church vandalism is 'hate motivated'

The Cheektowaga pastor whose Genesee County church building was recently spray-painted with racist graffiti has seen that kind of vandalism before.

The Rev. Stephen J. Andzel told The Buffalo News in 2011 that when his New Creation Fellowship moved to Genesee Street in Cheektowaga in the early 1990s, there was a racial epithet spray-painted on the church building there.

Andzel told The News this week that he was unable to recall exactly when that happened or if the case was solved.

In the most recent case, the graffiti, which uses the N-word, was discovered Feb. 26. A member of Andzel's church sent emails to local media, including The News, early Saturday morning with a photo of the graffiti painted on a metal building on Marble Road in Pembroke.

The matter is under investigation, said Trooper James J. O'Callaghan, State Police public information officer.

"We're currently working on coming to a resolve in the very near future," he said.

A member of the congregation donated the 20-acre former horse farm to New Creation in 2012, and the church intended to open a youth camp there, Andzel said.

The graffiti was removed "almost immediately after they found it," Andzel said.

Andzel acknowledged Monday that he has had run-ins with a couple of nearby property owners, whose names he said he could not recall. But he said he doesn't think either had anything to do with the graffiti. Andzel was arrested Nov. 18 and charged with damaging a neighbor's house with an errant gunshot while he was target-shooting on the Pembroke property.

Last week Andzel called the graffiti "hate motivated."

"Churches are something that people don't particularly care for, and especially our church, because we're 75 to 80 percent black and Hispanic, which makes me different because I'm a white pastor. Maybe people get upset with that," he told The News.

He said the arrest in the gunfire incident "has cast a light on the church being a criminal element and we're full of Chicago blacks, and everybody in the church is black and carrying guns," he said. "Before they brought some charges like that, they should have had some evidence. All that has done is caused the church and myself character assassination and defamation of character. All it is the Town of Pembroke saying something that isn't true."

But Pembroke Supervisor John J. Worth said he hasn't heard any rumblings in town against the church.

"No, and to be honest, I doubt the majority of the people even know they're there," Worth said. "You don't see a lot of activity there. I live right near there, and if it weren't for me working here, I wouldn't even know about it."

Joseph D. Meacham, of Akron Road, pressed charges after a bullet from a gun allegedly fired by Andzel struck and damaged a solar panel on the roof of his house on the afternoon of Nov. 18, according to court documents.

State Police in Batavia charged Andzel, 72, with second-degree reckless endangerment and fourth-degree criminal mischief. Andzel said the case remains open in Pembroke Town Court and he has not pleaded to anything.

"Those are false charges," Andzel said.

Many people were shooting that day, in deer season, Andzel said. He said no one has evidence that he fired the round that damaged the house.

Andzel said he was shooting a 7.62 mm rifle with a range of about 500 yards, and the house was 1,000 to 1,500 yards away. He said he's an Army combat veteran and has some expertise in weapons, and it was impossible for his shot to travel that far.

"There were people target practicing much closer to the area" where the house was struck, he said.

The other incident with neighbors happened several years ago, when a property owner accused children from the congregation of trespassing, Andzel said.

Story topics:

There are no comments - be the first to comment