An arrest has been made in at least one of the three cases of vandalizing at places of worship in Hidalgo County. According to Lt. Joel Morales of the McAllen Police Department, Erica Yme Garza was arrested Tuesday afternoon in connection with the vandalism involving at least one of the three locations, a synagogue in McAllen.
Morales did not reveal much more, other than Garza being in custody and charges are pending. The arrest comes after the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle was vandalized during the wee hours of early Tuesday morning with several references of the occult and with antisemitic imagery.
The front doors of the basilica were defaced with spray-painted words including “WITCH,” “HADES,” “RAPEST,” “NEW YORK KILLER” and other random phrases and words, and a swastika.
Groundskeepers were closing off the area as they prepared to deal with the situation Tuesday morning. There are surveillance cameras installed above the doors, but no word yet on whether it may lead to evidence of those responsible for the vandalism.
Rev. Jorge Gomez, rector of the basilica, said the vandalism occurred between 3 and 4 a.m. Tuesday as the grounds were pounded with heavy rains from that evening’s storm. The basilica had one security guarding the 26 acres of land, and the rain made it difficult to see the suspect — a woman between 30 and 40 years of age who church officials say approached the basilica front doors and used white spray paint to vandalize the church.
According to Gomez, she started acted bizarrely, yelling at the church and hurling a broom that was near the church entrance. Police have surveillance video of the incident.
Nearly identical markings were also spray-painted at the Temple Emanuel synagogue in McAllen and the Shri Nanak Center & Shiv Shakti Temple in Edinburg.
“What I can do at this time for you is confirm that we do have a criminal mischief report being investigated, and it came in at approximately 9 a.m.,” Morales said about the synagogue vandalism.