Police: Church break-ins, graffiti could have ‘Pokémon Go’ connection

PORTLAND, Mich. (WLNS) — A local community is on edge following church break-ins and graffiti found all over town.

It’s happening in Portland, where police said that there could be a connection between the crimes and a popular cell phone game.

One of the churches that was targeted by the suspects is First Baptist Church.

Pastor Gary Coleman encountered the young men Friday night inside the church.

“All three had bandanas over their face. The one closest to me said ‘Well, this is awkward. This is embarrassing’,” Coleman said.

They tried to politely excuse themselves, but Coleman had other ideas.

“He said ‘I think we’ll just walk away now, is that alright with you?’ And I said ‘No, it’s not’,” Coleman said.

The men bolted through the church, with the pastor chasing after them.

“They hit the pews running, which had to just feel wonderful on their legs. I started laughing at them,” Coleman said.

One of the intruders dropped a clip knife during the chase.

The pastor tried to contain them until police arrived but they escaped.

It does not appear that anything was stolen or damaged in the church.

First Baptist is just one of three churches on Bridge Street that vandals targeted.

They’re the same three churches that have been rebuilding over the past year from a devastating tornado.

Police say there was a possible break-in at the Congregational church, and graffiti was found outside the Methodist church.

This is happening as graffiti has been popping up all over town.

“We think it’s connected. Very similar red spray paint is their graffiti of choice,” said Chief David Kirk of the Portland Police Department.

Chief Kirk says the vandalism has been showing up at spots where people play the cell phone game Pokémon Go.

“Some of the graffiti also makes Pokémon references,” Chief Kirk said.

The chief says lots of tips have been coming in, and they’re close to identifying suspects.

“It’s unfortunate to have people doing those things and ruining an opportunity to play a community based game,” Chief Kirk said.

Especially for a town that takes so much pride in its scenery.

“That’s why it stands out so much, because it is not Portland,” Coleman said.

If you have any information on these crimes, call Portland Police at 517-647-2947.

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