BEAVERCREEK, Ore. (KOIN) — Mike Mutchler started the Grand View Baptist Church 35 years ago. Over the past 3 years he said there’s been “about 16 times” where people tried to steal gas from church vehicles.
Sunday night was one of those times.
Surveillance video shows a person “walking casually up with a drill in one hand and a gas can in another,” Mutchler told KOIN 6 News. He went under the van and then starts running away because a fire erupted.
“You see him running away surprised,” Mutchler said. “He drops his drill near his car that he parked further on the property and the sheriff’s department has that.”
That van fire spread to 2 other vans in the church parking lot, destroying them. A fourth van was saved by fire crews who rushed to the church.
“These vans are used everyday to pick up children for our summer program and then during the year for the school program,” he said. “We have (the Grand View Christian Academy) of about 400 students. Many of them need transportation back and forth and we provide that for parents.”
Mutchler said he didn’t know the vans were on fire until a Clackamas County deputy knocked on his door around 2 a.m.
“At first we were thinking someone just set fire to the vans,” he said. But the fire investigator saw a hole was drilled in the gas tank.” He believed that they were trying to steal gas and it sparked, and that’s what caused the fire.”
A look at the surveillance tape confirmed that, he said.
“No, I’m not angry,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I just figure we live in a world where bad things happen. I think it was someone looking for cheap fuel and wanting to take it. I don’t think it was animosity against the church. I think it was just available and they wanted to take advantage of it. So, no, I don’t feel angry. I don’t think that’s a proper response for us.”
Just last week someone cut the catalytic converter off a van in a case he believes is not related to the van fires. The pastor said they don’t have comprehensive insurance on their older vans and are now trying to come up with about $30,000 to replace them.
Mutchler just wants whoever did this to know the church is there to help, no matter what.
“We would much rather people knock on our door and say they need gas money. It’s a whole lot cheaper than replacing gas tanks,” he said. “It’s just people have some messed up lives right now and we try and help those lives. But if you’re messed up you do messed up things.”
Mike Mutchler said he isn’t going to change much in the parking lot because he wants it to be welcoming to the community and not closed off with a fence.
“I don’t mind justice being done,” he said, “but I also want to be compassionate on any offender as well.
Anyone with information about this crime is asked to contact the Oregon State Police.