Attack on pastor not a hate crime, investigator says
The Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department is continuing an investigation into last week's alleged attack on a local minister.
Major David Walton said this week there is no evidence "pointing to anything that it's a hate crime."
Damage was "very minimal" to the Trinity Baptist Church, where Pastor Aaron Trigg reported he was attacked by two masked men in camouflage clothing.
"There is no cause for any alarm in the public whatsoever," he said.
Trigg is reportedly in a Charleston-area hospital this week, recovering from the injuries he received last Tuesday.
Walton said Trigg told him that he had gone to the church to pray around 8 a.m., and had called his father-in-law before he left his nearby home. At 8:15 a.m., Trigg called his father-in-law to say the attack had occurred, Walton said.
"This is vigorously under investigation," Walton said. "And the investigation continues."
Walton said he hand-delivered evidence to the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab in Charleston last week. He would not say how the investigation is developing.
Sheriff David Jonese said he hopes to wrap up the investigation later this week.
The attack prompted an enormous outpouring of support from the community, including High Rocks for Girls talking with Marlinton Middle School students (see separate story) and a candlelight vigil Friday night at Trinity.
At the vigil, several people spoke about Trigg and his church leadership.
Julie Grimes, of Frost, said she drives 45 minutes to his church every Sunday to attend services.
"I just love it here" because of Trigg and his wife, she said.
Another Trinity member, Peggy McMillion, said it grieved her that people would enter the church to try to hurt her pastor "for what he has done here."
"And last but not least that they would lay hands on the holy House of God. God help them," McMillion said.
It was not only Trinity congregation members who were vocal.
Gena Anderson said the attack, while awful, brings out the good in the community.
"Everybody comes together after something like this happens," she said. "We all have so many friends.
[The attackers] know not what they have done or what they could have caused."
Pastor Scott Ingleton, of Marlinton United Methodist Church, said he had shared with Trigg in the hospital about what to do on a long-term basis and his fellow pastor was very agreeable to that.
Ingleton said the attack showed a "resistance to [Trigg's] ministry," but as Christians, the response should be in keeping with Christian beliefs.
"Our anger should be channeled in ways that are constructive and pleasing to God," he said.
Trigg is the sponsor of Pocahontas County High School's Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
FCA member Cassidy Rao said she was concerned that high school students had done more to support Trigg than adults.
"I want to know where the community leadership is. We have done so much more in taking a stand for this." Rao said. "I can't believe...there aren't more people here."
Tonya Purdy, an AmeriCorps volunteer, helped organize the vigil.
Purdy said it was good to talk about the attack in a "safe and constructive environment."
The event raised about $200 for Trigg and his family.
Pamela Pritt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org