The video shows a man yelling "devil worshiper" outside a Tacoma Buddhist temple before tipping over a $3,000 statute, shattering it.
Pierce County sheriff's deputies say the man also tried to attach a chain between his car and a column in front of the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Center at 2625 72nd St. E., presumably in an effort to badly damage the building.
Deputies believe 35-year-old Jereme Clarke of Elma, Washington, is the man in the video, which was captured Wednesday by a temple monk.
On Friday, prosecutors charged Clarke with second-degree malicious mischief. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf in Superior Court, and Commissioner Megan Foley ordered him jailed in lieu of $15,000 bail.
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“I feel terrible," temple member Lisa Tran told The News Tribune on Friday. “It is kind of a shame that I see this happen, you know, at the place for everyone to come to have peace. It is so hurtful that I am seeing this, and I am sure other members feel the same that this has happened to the temple.”
Clarke allegedly showed up at the temple Wednesday night and followed a nun around. Thầy Thích Phước Toàn, a monk there, yelled at Clarke to leave. Clarke then allegedly went on his rampage, according to the charging documents.
A video posted to Facebook by Thầy shows a man thought to be Clarke backing his car, a chain dragging from the rear end, up to the temple and repeatedly shouting "devil worshiper." He then walks up to the temple and knocks the statue to the ground before returning to his car and driving off. Thầy estimated the statue's value at $3,000, according to the charging papers.
The video captured the man's license plate number, and Clarke was located later that night and arrested.
Clarke told investigators that "God called him." When asked why he destroyed the statue, Clarke responded, "How could you ask that, they are obviously devil worshipers, have you seen that statue?" according to the charging documents.
Thầy said the incident is not the first incidence of vandalism at the temple, and other members expressed fear.
"We’ve been doing some cross-cultural events at the temple trying to raise awareness and trying to connect a community that often feels that it has to hide," said Renee Meschi, temple member. "The point of those events was to show, ‘We are here for you, we support you.’ And then when stuff like this happens, it just causes people to want to keep their events more private. There is some fear.”
Buddhism focuses on finding peace within oneself and guides individuals to find inner peace, kindness and wisdom. Buddhists seek to live peacefully and try not to harm others to work toward an overall goal of happiness for all.
Clarke is set to reappear in court July 12.
Meredith Spelbring: 253-597-8509