Teen duo arrested for breaking into churches after Hurricane Irma

Posted at 6:27 PM, Sep 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-15 18:28:33-04

Two teens are accused of breaking into churches in and around Plant City in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

"You can see, they just ransacked it," Pastor Mike Rippy of The First Baptist Church of Midway said.

Rippy says he initially went to the church to survey damage when he found a window had been broken and the church ransacked.

"This is how they got in, Monday night into Tuesday," he said, pointing to the window on a door. "They got in our children's area. Took their snacks. Took money for their snacks. Took a computer, ipad, portable hard drive from my office."

He says they also took keys to the church van. The next day, they came back.

"And stole our van in the middle of the day," he said.

The pastor says on Wednesday night into Thursday, they came back to the church a third time and broke into another building.

According to Plant City Police, the duo also hit Saint Clement Catholic Church. Police say they broke into three different buildings in the back of the church campus.

According to Rippy, one of the suspects lives near his church. He says the van was spotted by someone who was familiar with the case and reported it to deputies.

Deputies arrested 18-year-old Miguel Zavala. Plant City Police say a 17-year-old accomplice was also arrested. In the back of the van, deputies found several stolen items from both churches, although some of the items have not been recovered, according to Rippy.

Rippy's church still doesn't have power, but they plan to hold service on Sunday regardless. If Zavala or his accomplice are out of jail, he says they're invited.

"We want our stuff back. But in the same way, we still forgive them and want to show them the love of Christ in a real way," Pastor Rippy said.