According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Gainsville police learned that the 16-year-old girl was planning to attack the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hall County, Georgia. Police Chief Jay Parrish claims that she chose the building because most of the church's members are black.
"Our investigation indicated the church was targeted by the juvenile based on the racial demographic of the church members," Parrish said in a news release on Tuesday. "The church was immediately notified of the incident by Gainesville police to ensure the safety of our community and the current threat was under control."
Police did not disclose how she was planning to attack the church. The ABC affiliate reports that she did visit the building once before she was caught, but events were canceled that night. Pastor Michelle Rizer-Pool says that Bible study is normally held on Wednesday. Police learned of the plot from Gainesville High School administrators. The instructors were made aware of her intentions from students who told them that the suspect had "detailed plans to commit murder" in her notebook. Once the school resource officers verified the threat, the authorities were notified and the girl was arrested.
The suspect's name has not been released to the public. She was taken to Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center where she was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder. Parrish believes that this arrest proves why it is important for teachers and students to have a firm relationship.
"This is an active investigation and a prime example of how strong relationships between the student body, school administration, and law enforcement can intercept a potentially horrific incident," Parrish said.
The presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, responded to the arrest with a statement.
"While we are very concerned about this incident, we are not surprised," Jackson said. "Hate crimes and domestic terrorism have been on the rise for many years, but it is unfortunate we cannot have this perpetrator prosecuted on hate crimes in Georgia because there is no law on the books to address it."
He also wants the girl to be tried as an adult because "to plan this kind of event is not that of a childish mind."