• Lancaster Co. deputies issue warrants for man accused of targeting church parishioners

    By: Gina Esposito

    Updated:

    LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. - Deputies have issued arrest warrants for a man accused of breaking into several vehicles during worship services at multiple Lancaster County churches last Sunday afternoon. 

    The Lancaster County Sheriff's Office identified 29-year-old Maurice Sherrod Gibson of Columbia, South Carolina as a suspect after processing the vehicles and evidence gathered at the scenes. 

    Deputies issued warrants for Gibson's arrest ranging from grand larceny to multiple counts of breaking to a motor vehicle. 


    WARRANTS: 

    • Grand larceny over $10,000
    • Three counts of breaking into a motor vehicle
    • Two counts of Petit Larceny third offense or more
    • Two counts of possession of a pistol by a person convicted of a crime of violence
    • Three counts of financial transaction card fraud

    Officials said after Gibson was identified, they reached out to the Richland County Sheriff's Department, who was searching for Gibson in Columbia. 

    “Now that Gibson has been identified and charged in these incidents, we hope someone who knows him will contact us or the local law enforcement agency with information on his whereabouts so he can be taken into custody,” said Sheriff Barry Faile.  “Excellent work by our crime scene investigators led to Gibson’s identification.  We are pleased we solved these cases so quickly for the victims.  We appreciate the assistance we are getting from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.  Gibson has a history with the criminal justice system, and he needs to be jailed as soon as possible.” 

    Gibson is described as a black male, just over six feet tall and weighing 230 pounds. 

    The owner of a 2003 Chevrolet 2500 truck with a trailer attached told deputies when he got out of services at New Hope Baptist Church just after noon, his truck and trailer -- containing two guns and power tools -- were gone.

    [ALSO READ: Someone pretending to be prominent local preachers trying to rip off clergy]

    Witnesses said they saw the truck leave the church parking lot followed by a dark-colored car with no hub caps, but assumed the owner was driving.

    Deputies said the truck and trailer were found hours later abandoned in the woods off New Hope Road, but one of the guns, tools and the radio were missing.

    About 20 minutes after law enforcement officers responded to the first incident, they were called to Crestview Baptist Church. The owner of a 2012 Chevrolet Impala said when she went to open her car door, she noticed a small hole had been punched below the door handle and her phone was missing.

    [ALSO READ: York County deputies searching for suspects who stole church van]

    Channel 9 spoke with the 81-year-old victim at Crestview Baptist Church. She said she came out after church and found her car had been broken into.

    “That’s how they got in my car. They punched a hole and popped the lock up,” the woman, who didn’t want to be identified, said. “It’s sad when you can’t go to church and leave your doors unlocked."

    Officials said after word of the thefts circulated, the owner of a 2003 Honda Accord flagged down a deputy in Indian Land and reported a theft. The victim said when he returned to his car after attending services at Camp Creek United Methodist Church, he noticed someone had rummaged through a compartment in his car and $20 was missing.

    According to deputies, the last incident was reported just before 2 p.m. when the owner of a 2004 Chevrolet pickup got home from services at Bethel Baptist Church and realized his wallet, ID, bank cards, pistol and cassette tapes were missing.

    He said the truck was locked while he was in church and there were no signs of a break-in, but he received an alert saying his bank card had been used at a Dollar General in Kershaw that afternoon.

    [ALSO READ: Charlotte pastor accused of disappearing with nearly half a million dollars]

    "He got $609 off one card, $400 dollars off another, buying gift cards," victim Ronnie Gandy said.

    According to deputies, his wallet was on the ground near the stolen truck and trailer found in the woods off New Hope Road.

    "You feel violated. You really feel violated, especially at church," Gandy said. 

    Investigators said surveillance video from Crestview Baptist Church shows a black man wearing a black shirt, camouflage pants and black shoes with white soles was spotted walking through the church parking lot. A dark-colored four-door sedan could also be seen driving through the parking lot during services.

    Video from a Dollar General in Kershaw, where one victim's card was swiped, reportedly shows a man matching the description from the church surveillance wearing a Chicago Bulls hat in the store at the same time the transaction was made.

    [ALSO READ: Priest impostor using email scam to steal parishioner's cash]

    Deputies said they are uncertain if the man at Dollar General and the man at Crestview are the same person, but it's clear that at least two people were involved in the New Hope Baptist Church theft.

    “One of the last places we should expect our possessions to be taken is at church while we are worshipping,” said Faile. “From the facts we know so far, it appears these thefts are related and two or more people acted in concert to commit them. "Our criminal and crime scene investigators are working hard to solve these cases, but we encourage anyone with information about these incidents to contact us.”

    No arrests have been made. 

    Anyone with information about this or any other case should call the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office at 803-283-3388 or contact Midlands Crime Stoppers in one of the following ways:  dial 888-CRIME-SC (888-274-6372), log onto www.midlandscrimestoppers.com and click on the “Submit a Tip” tab.

    This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.

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