TALLAPOOSA CO., AL (WSFA) - A rampage by a group of Tallapoosa County teenagers has left a church congregation in Daviston reeling after their cemetery was targeted.
Historic tombstones were destroyed, leaving loved ones and community members upset.
As Alice Lewis walks among the final resting spots belonging to generations of her family, she gets emotional seeing damage on the grave sites.
Her uncle's headstone was blasted by bullets, removing dates. Chunks are missing out of her grandmother's marble headstone from a barrage of bullets. Several other tombstones belonging to her other relatives were struck, with glaring chips and holes left in the tombstones and debris scattered over the graveyard.
Tallapoosa County Sheriff's officials say several teenagers are to blame for what happened at Coger Hill CME on Fredrick Ferry Road in Daviston, firing shots from a rifle and shotgun at tombstones.
“I really couldn't believe it when I first saw it. It was like a nightmare,” said Lewis, who is also one of the caretakers for the cemetery, volunteering her time to help keep it maintained. “There's been lots of people down here who came to see what the damage was and they are really hurt too.”
According to authorities, the teens also shot out street lights near the church belonging to Alabama Power. Members of the crew allegedly vandalized two vacant homes in the Daviston area-- on Everglades Road and Motley Road-- leaving extensive damage to the interiors. One 15-year-old and three 17-years-olds are linked to the string of criminal mischief incidents.
“I can't understand why they had to come to God's house. This cemetery's been down here for more than 100 years and we've never dealt with anything like this,” Lewis said. “Justice should be done for vandalizing God's cemetery. People are out here in this cemetery resting in peace, not harming or bothering anyone.”
Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett called the teens' actions “malicious” and “uncalled for.” They were arrested and their cases will head to juvenile court. The victims, including the church, will be seeking restitution for the damages.
Damage estimates are not yet available. Lewis said she couldn't put a dollar amount on the destruction left at the cemetery.
“I would like to know why this happened,” she said. “It really hurts me.”