Two young men broke a window at True Bethel Baptist Church on East Ferry Street with a rock Saturday night and went through the building before running away when the police arrived, according to Rev. Darius Pridgen, the pastor of True Bethel who is also the president of the Buffalo Common Council.
"All of it was caught on camera," Pridgen wrote on a Facebook post late Monday night.
Now, he is giving the young men until Wednesday night to turn themselves in.
"I don't want to see these two go to jail for a stupid decision to break into a church, but they must learn that this is not the path," Pridgen wrote. "I announced in church on Sunday that they have until Wednesday to find ME, I will not search for them. If both of them find me, I will back off of my police complaint if they agree to work for the church to replace the window."
But if they don't?
"With permission from detectives, I will post their very well captured pictures on the internet and television, with a reward so that they can be brought to justice before they continue to think they can keep breaking in locations. I am not joking," Pridgen wrote.
When the burglars broke the window, Pridgen said, they tripped a silent alarm. A church administrator was able to watch what was going on live through a surveillance camera which showed the young men "attempting entry into different rooms," Pridgen said. Both were wearing hoodies, one with a UB logo, but their faces can be clearly seen, Pridgen said.
"I don't care if people think I'm wrong for trying to save two young people from a path of destruction, because in the end I don't want to bury them," Pridgen said in his post, asking people to share it on Facebook to spread the word. By noon Tuesday, it had been shared close to 500 times.
There have been two other incidents at the church property that led Pridgen to call for the perpetrators to turn themselves in, he said.
Twelve years ago when the Subway sandwich shop on the True Bethel campus was robbed at gunpoint, Pridgen offered a $10,000 reward and also implored the two robbers to turn themselves in. They took $250 and fired a shot at employees before fleeing.
A week later, the parents of a 17-year-old boy brought him to Pridgen. In 2016, he was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison. He faced as much as 50 years behind bars.
"I had hoped that we could be able to help in his rehabilitation, rather than his incarceration," Pridgen said in 2016 about the case. "However, I do understand ... how a jurist would feel he might need some time in incarceration."
About a year ago, Pridgen said the young man from the Subway incident came to his office at City Hall. He said the man had recently gotten out of prison and now had a job.
"He brought his fiancee and he thanked me," Pridgen said.
In the third break-in, Pridgen said he posted a photo from surveillance cameras the day after the incident. A church member immediately recognized the man and turned him in, Pridgen said.
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