Apparent bullet holes found in Janesville church's cross

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

JANESVILLE—Someone has put eight apparent bullet holes in the 60-foot cross that stirred controversy when it was erected at a church along Highway 14 last year.

Church members removed audio speakers last fall and hadn't approached the cross all winter until this month. They were getting it ready for spring when they noticed the holes, said Michael Jackson, pastor at New Life Assembly of God, 2416 N. Wright Road.

Jackson reported it to police Thursday.

“We have hundreds of people here on Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings. Somebody could've been shot, depending on when they did their dastardly deed. So, I think it is a big deal,” Jackson said.

Four entry holes were found at ground level on the side facing Wright Road, according to a Janesville police report. Another four were about 20 feet up.

Jackson said the angle of the shots means a bullet could have hit the church if it missed the cross.

Jackson said there might be one exit hole, and there are dents where bullets apparently crashed into the opposite side after creating the entry holes.

No slugs or shell casings were found when church members looked, Jackson said.

The cross's main structural element is a large steel pipe, which is surrounded by a metal framework. Metal siding is attached to the framework. The holes were in the siding.

The shots could have come from Wright Road or nearby apartments, the police report states.

Jackson said the church is looking into repairing the cross or replacing panels on it.

“From a theological standpoint, as a minister, I think the cross looks good bearing the scars of the bullet holes, quite frankly, and there is a part of me that would like leave them up there because people have been taking pot shots at Jesus Christ, the cross of Christ, for 2,000 years,” Jackson said.

Jackson said he asked his congregation to be prepared for opposition when they announced they would erect the cross. He told them people would try to vandalize it, and now it has happened.

Some people have strong feelings against faith, Christianity or religion, “so we expected someone would do some dumb thing, and some dumb person did some dumb thing,” Jackson said.

Jackson said he told his congregants about the vandalism Sunday. He said he didn't want to incite anyone to anger or create fear. Nobody was hurt, he stressed, and the cross can be repaired.

The day after the holes were discovered, police stopped a woman on Highway 14 near the church, and afterward she sat in her car and looked at the cross for 10 minutes before coming into the church, Jackson said.

She told workers she wanted to talk and ended up in Jackson's office. She had “severe” personal problems, Jackson said, and she prayed to receive Christ.

That wouldn't have happened if not for the cross, he said, and lots of other people have stopped to see the cross since it was erected last spring.

The police report notes there are no suspects, and the incident is marked as closed.

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