By Erin Smith
A small church in Bladen County was damaged recently by gunfire. As you drive by the little white church, you might not immediately notice the marks left by the shot gun shells on the building of Sweet Home Holiness Church. The incident was reported on Sunday, November 18.
Slow down and take a closer look and there are bullet marks left on the front of the church near the front doors. The church’s sign out front also bears the hall marks of the encounter. There was also damage reported to have ocurred to some of the church’s windows.
Sweet Home Holiness Church, located at 4519 Sweet Home Church Road, is a small clapboard sided church that sits about 1 mile from the intersection of Sweet Home Church Road and NC 242.
Bladen County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Larry Guyton said, “One of the church members was there on Saturday and was mowing the grass and he didn’t notice anything.”
He added the church member did see two pick up trucks with out-of-state tags parked on the shoulder of the roadway with dog boxes in the back of each truck. Guyton said it appears someone shot in the direction of the church.
The Sheriff’s Office was joined in the investigation by the NC Wildlife Office.
NC Wildlife Sgt. Bill Tarplee said, “I don’t believe it was a hate crime.”
Both Sgt. Tarplee and Chief Deputy Guyton said the church was struck by buckshot and the direction seemed to come from across the roadway. Sgt. Tarplee said the land directly across the road from the church is wildlife game lands while the land immediately surrounding the church is a “no hunting zone.”
A concerned citizen, who reached out to BladenOnline.com regarding the incident said, “It is a very, very small (member) church.”
The caller also expressed concerns about what could have ocurred had someone been inside the church at the time the incident ocurred.
While the damage may initially seem minor to some, it is worrisome to other Bladen County residents. There are supposed to be safety zones near houses of worship, according to the North General Statutes.
The incident remains under investigation. If anyone has any information about the incident, you are encouraged to contact the NC Wildlife Service at 1-800-662-7137 or the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office at 910-862-6960.