Erie Church's Security Measures Help Police Track Down Attacker
A terrifying experience for an Erie woman, who was assaulted over the weekend, inside an Erie church.
But thanks to security measures in place, Erie police were able to track down the suspect in a matter of hours.
A church is supposed to be a place of refuge, but unfortunately many of us know criminals can hit just about anywhere, but thanks to one church's security measures, police caught an alleged attacker.
The incident happened around 11:30 Saturday morning at St. Joseph's church at 24th and Sassafrass Street, in Erie.
A man walked in and attacked and sexually assaulted a woman who was volunteering inside the church.
This was a crime that rocked the community, but especially the Erie Catholic Diocese, “By design and intent, church buildings are supposed to be open for people to stop in during the day and pray, that's their purpose,” said Monsignor Edward Lohse, Vicar General with the Erie Catholic Diocese. “All of the faithful they should have some assurance that when they go into churches, that these places are safe,” Lohse continued.
The victim fought off her attacker, and he left, but not before he was caught on the church's surveillance cameras.
Erie police released a picture of the suspect, along with his physical description on social media. By nightfall, Erie police identified the man as Josue Mendez, 25, and arrested him, “The presence of the surveillance cameras at St. Joseph’s was certainly a help in this case,” said Msgr. Lohse.
And Jerry Clark, President of Fisher Security, a private security company in Erie, says unfortunately this case shows crime can happen anywhere, “No place is immune anymore, it's unbelievable to even think about churches, schools, hospitals, places you would think would never have any issues, now suddenly have to pay attention,” said Clark.
Clark says while quality surveillance cameras are crucial, this case being a good example, when it comes to any building's safety, monitoring it should also be considered, “It often times is the last thing that people look at until you need it, and then it's often too late, so pay attention to security it makes a difference,” said Clark.
Mendez was staying at the Erie City Mission, he is listed as homeless, and is now in Erie county prison under a $100,000 bond.
Erie Police are investigating a case of attempted sexual assault in an alley the day before the church incident. They are working to determine whether Mendez may be a person of interest in that crime.