Grand Rapids church, other faith communities 'targets' after suspicious package found

GR church closes due to threat

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The Westminster Presbyterian Church, located on Jefferson Avenue in Grand Rapids has closed the Westminster Child Development Center, along with their office, the Downtown Food Pantry and their open door ministry on Tuesday, Nov. 14 following a threat that listed them as a target.

The Grand Rapids Police Department informed Westminster they were listed as a "target" along with other faith communities inside of a suspicious package found in Dearborn Heights, Mich. 

A homeowner found a bag in some bushes, when he looked inside he found items like maps, lists and an unloaded handgun, according to Lt. Patrick Merrill with GRPD. Westminster was circled on a map and the word "target" was written next to it. It was the only church that numbered, it had a one next to it as well. 

There were several other churches and a mosque also listed in the paperwork found. 

"It wasn't only Christian churches, wasn't only Presbyterian churches -- there doesn't seem to be any consistency between them and the Muslim mosque as well," Lt. Merrill explained.  "There was just one target in West Michigan, the rest were across the state -- but [Westminster] was target number one."

A number of people are concerned by the discovery, so police have increase their presence in the area of Westminster. "We'll be on site for a couple of days and check-in routinely," Lt. Merrill said.

GRPD has been practicing a lot of active shooter scenarios or workplace violence scenarios, as well as working with various religious communities in the area. GRPD is working with authorities in Dearborn Heights, as well as the FBI to continue to investigate the situation. 

Lt. Merrill did not comment on a motive, however, believe that this was intended to be a threat.

"The big thing is for the community to step up -- make sure you keep your eyes open to what's around you," Lt. Merrill advised.

Westminster shared on their Facebook that they will open their regular services Wednesday, Nov. 15. If you have any questions about Westminster or their services, reach out to Heather Colletto, Director of Communication and Mission, at 616-717-5536.

If you have any information that may help authorities in Grand Rapids or Dearborn Heights, please call the Grand Rapids Police Department at 616-456-3400 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.

© 2017 WZZM-TV


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