Patricia McCullough says her son, Kalil Colbert, isn't a bad kid, but he hasn't gotten the appropriate mental health care he needs.
"He needs some help – not just locking him up and throwing away the key," McCullough said.
Colbert has been charged with three felonies – including a hate crime – after a statue of Mary was smashed with a baseball bat May 15 outside St. John Kanty Church on Broadway. He has been incarcerated since his arrest two days later.
Colbert, who has lived in a number of group homes and has recently been staying at the Buffalo City Mission, has felt remorse, and the family will pay to have the statue fixed or replaced, his mother said.
Colbert moved out of his mother's house on Buffalo's East Side around Christmas, she said. He was expelled earlier this school year from Riverside High School after he wrote letters to teachers. One was a letter to a teacher who is gay in which he urged the teacher to turn from his "wicked ways," according to McCullough.
He was charged with trespassing at Riverside High School on March 7, according to a Buffalo police report. A school district spokeswoman said the incident involved a student who returned to school while under suspension.
About six months ago, Colbert spent the night in a tent on the roof of a building on Niagara Street in downtown Buffalo, McCullough said. Afterward, she said her son remarked about how, because of the situation, he would be seen on the news.
And that wasn't the first time her son had climbed up to the top of a building; before that, he once climbed up onto the roof of a Gateway-Longview facility, she said.
On the night the statue was damaged, her son was sleeping in a tree, according to his mother.
Mental health issues run in her family, McCullough said. She said she has another son who lives in a mental health facility in Virginia. McCullough said she has spent time being treated for mental illness. She's also spent time incarcerated.
Her son, who she said is not able to follow three-step commands, regularly attends church services and has played musical instruments during services.
She said her son reads the Bible, and about seven or eight months ago he started being more judgmental of other people. She said she tried to tell him he shouldn't be comparing religions and that "we are all one body of Christ."
In terms of the damage done to the statue, McCullough does not think her son committed a hate crime or that he harbors hatred for others' beliefs.
"I don't think he did it out of hate. I think he did it out of misunderstanding," she said.
Colbert's next scheduled court appearance is Tuesday. An earlier court appearance was put on hold until a forensic exam could be completed, a spokeswoman for the Erie County District Attorney's Office said.