NJ authorities investigate possible bias crime incident at church in Asbury Park

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Monday, January 30, 2023
Smoke bomb set off at NJ church in possible bias crime
Authorities are investigating a possible bias crime in Monmouth County, NJ. It happened Friday night at Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park. Toni Yates has the story.

ASBURY PARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- What started as an anti-racism event in Asbury Park quickly turned into the backdrop of a display of hate.

Trinity Episcopal Church sold out its Friday night fundraiser for One People's Project with a full program of music and activities for residents who were able to snag a ticket.

Daryle Lamont Jenkins is the founder of One People's Project, which reports on racist activity and relies on community engagement to report and combat hateful behavior.

The organization's slogan 'hate has consequences' embodies the group's purpose.

And while residents were able to enjoy their evening at the church hall, when they exited they were met with a very different scene.

"Someone attempted to pepper spray a group of people after this concert," Reverend Chase Danford said. "No one was injured thank goodness."

Witnesses exiting the church hall told Jenkins they saw someone harassing people and they may have set off a smoke bomb.

"Before they threw the smoke bomb, they shouted WLM," Jenkins said. "White lives matter that changed the whole dynamic. We expect people to come at us because we identify as Antifa."

The Monmouth County Prosecutor's office along with other agencies are investigating this as a possible bias incident.

NJ Attorney General released Matthew Platkin released a statement saying, "I want to reassure all New Jerseyans - especially our friends and neighbors of the Black community and Jewish faith - that law enforcement continues to take the appropriate steps to increase our presence around sensitive places so everyone in our state can worship, love, and live without fear of violence or threat."

Trinity Church is proud of its community outreach, often hosting events like this one that promote unity.

But it doesn't come without backlash.

The church's pride flag was ripped from its sign for a third time the night of the concert.

"They take it down, we'll put It back up," Danford said. "And if they take it down we'll put it back up, and again, and again."

The investigation remains active and ongoing.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Detective Brian Hammarstrom at 800-533-7443 or Asbury Park Police Department Detective Anthony Troublefield at 732-774-1300. Detective Sergeant Brian Christensen and Detective Samer Abboud from the Attorney General's Office, Division of Criminal Justice, are also assisting with the investigation.

Anonymous tips can be submitted to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by calling their confidential telephone tip-line at 1-800-671-4400; by downloading and using the free P3 Tips mobile app (available on iOS and Android), or by going to the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.

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