YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A suspect in the vandalism of Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel admitted to the crime, police said.

Caleb Vancampen, 20, of East Palestine, is expected to be charged with felony vandalism for the destruction of over $20,000 worth of property overnight at the church at Via Mount Carmel.

Vancampen was issued a summons for two misdemeanor counts of theft Thursday and was arraigned Friday in municipal court. But as he was being arraigned, patrol officers in the area notified detectives that they should question Vancampen, who had been a new person hanging out in the neighborhood, said Chief of Detectives Capt. Rod Foley.

Vancampen was questioned by detectives and confessed to the vandalism, Foley said. Foley said detectives were also able to use video surveillance to help make their case.

Several statues outside the church were knocked over and some had the heads knocked off. Several lights outside were also damaged, a church worker said.

“It’s truly an attack on the heart and soul of the people when their faith is not respected,” said Msgr. Robert Siffrin, vicar general of the Diocese of Youngstown. “Shocking, because we live in a valley where there’s such respect for diversity and respect for faith, and to see someone attacking symbols of faith it’s truly disheartening and disturbing.”

In total, police said 16 fiberglass statues and two granite statues were damaged, along with a light pole globe.

“Anytime there is a desecration to any of our properties or religious spaces or objects, it really cuts to the heart of who we are and what we stand for,” said Bishop David Bonnar.

More than $20,000 in damage was done to church property.

First Ward City Councilman Julius Oliver released this statement in response to the vandalism:

“Mt. Carmel has been a long standing religious institution within the city of Youngstown. I am very disappointed to hear that this type of careless, criminal act was taken against an institute made up of good people who regularly play a role in helping the community. I give thanks to the Youngstown Police Department for their quick response,” Oliver said.

“I’m happy to know that a suspect is in custody and that proper measures will be taken,” he continued. “I have reached out to the staff of the church to ensure they feel safe and to see what steps they will take to rebuild what was broken. Moving forward, it’s important we make sure justice is served and that Mt. Carmel receives the support it needs from the city and the community.”

Foley said the beat officers in the area deserve a lot of credit for being able to find a suspect so quickly.

“It was a very good job by the patrol officers,” Foley said.

A mental health assessment was also ordered as a condition of Vancampen’s bond.

“We have no idea what motivated them to do this. We would certainly want to forgive them and show them mercy and encourage them to look at the good within themselves,” Bishop Bonnar said.

Monsignor Michael Cariglio echoed the sentiment of forgiveness during Friday afternoon’s Mass.
But even in the tragedy, Bishop Bonnar says he knows this community will get through it – together.

“The faith of the people here in Youngstown is very resilient – it’s strong,” Bishop Bonnar said.

Vancampen is scheduled to be arraigned March 1 on the vandalism charges.

There are no details of the theft case available, but court records list the offense as taking place at 10 E. Commerce St. downtown, just a few blocks from the church.

Both of the theft charges are first-degree misdemeanors. Court records in the theft case note that Vancampen was given a 10 percent bond of $500 in each case.

Police are investigating vandalism at Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Youngstown.
Police are investigating vandalism at Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Youngstown.