BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Stealing from a church is a crime that many people may consider unthinkable, especially during the Christmas season. But that's exactly what happened to two different churches on Popp's Ferry Road in Biloxi.
Thieves hit the First Pentecostal Church and New Life Family church on Monday, during a two hour period around noon.
Police investigators have some very good evidence, including video surveillance from one church and a burglary tool left behind at the other.
The lone thief who visited First Pentecostal Monday morning probably wasn't counting on video cameras recording his image. But they did and from several different angles.
Security video shows a man in front of the church. This wasn't a break in, because the man then walked through an open back door. Church members were inside working at the time, but in different parts of the building.
The video shows a middle aged African-American, wearing a ball cap and sweatshirt. He walks into the lobby and looks around.
The video then shows the man entering an office, where he can been seen grabbing a wallet from a secretary's purse, then quickly leaving the building, as if he was startled by someone.
Three miles down the road, a short time later, thieves were more brazen at New Life Family Church.
"This was found open and obviously breached with some kind of pry bar or screwdriver device," said Pastor Jeff Ulmer, pointing to a badly damaged back door lock.
The pastor was summoned by two church workers who discovered the break in. Burglars made their way to the sanctuary, where they targeted electronics at the sound booth.
"One was on top of this rack and the other was on this table," said Pastor Ulmer, pointing to the spot where sound equipment was taken.
Thieves grabbed two sound boards and a laptop. The pastor speculates the intruders may have been scared off by two church workers.
"Our offices were closed, but we had some staff in and out. And it's possible that they came up on them and actually caused them to flee through the front door," said Pastor Ulmer.
Several doors leading to and from the sanctuary were damaged.
"If they heard noise back there, we're speculating that perhaps they kicked this door out," the pastor explained.
Although thieves took some $20,000 worth of electronics, they left some things behind.
"A large screwdriver. And it looked brand new. And the police took that as evidence," said Pastor Ulmer.
Pastor Ulmer said it is a difficult thing to accept, people stealing from a church. He said he wants whoever did this to know, they're in his prayers.
"They've not stolen from us, really. They've stolen from God. And to lay your head on the pillow at night and know that you've done that, I think is a pretty heavy weight to live with," said the preacher.
Anyone with any information about the crimes should contact the Biloxi Police Department at (228) 392-0641.