AUSTIN (KXAN) — Scared and frustrated — that’s how church members at Misión Cristiana Internacional LIDS describe their emotions while watching a suspect take thousands of dollars worth of equipment from their sanctuary.
Their story is one many churchgoers are sharing. Records from Austin Police Department show there have been almost as many church burglaries this year as there were in all of 2020.
Fortunately for members at Misión Cristiana Internacional LIDS, the two suspects linked to their burglary were caught.
Police said it happened around 5 p.m. Wednesday. Security video captured by the church’s camera shows what John Quinones, the church’s communications coordinator, calls a brazen act inside the sanctuary. It’s the second time their church was hit in just two weeks.
“He took a guitar, base, lots of sound equipment, and unfortunately it was right before our youth group meeting,” Quinones said.
His sister-in-law, Stephanie Chavarria, was immediately alerted by the alarm company when the burglary occurred and watched the security video in real time Wednesday afternoon.
“This is a house of worship — who in their sane mentality does that?” Chavarria questioned. “He’s going around with a flashlight, never turned the light on, he’s just looking around to see what he can take on the stage.”
She immediately told her husband and called Quinones and the pastor. They all raced to the church. Their pastor was the first one there and said he encountered the suspect listed in court documents as Silvo-Alejandro Gonzalez.
Surveillance video shows Gonzalez with thousands of dollars worth of sound equipment in hand. All of the equipment was purchased by their members.
“[The pastor] told him in English ‘why are you stealing from my church?’ And the guy broke away, and he said, ‘no stay here, the cops are coming.’ And [the suspect] reached back and motioned like he had a gun and said, ‘you are going to regret this if you try to keep me here,'” Quinones explained.
Gonzalez escaped, and police said he ran under an overpass down Highway 290. The pastor followed him and flagged police. Police got a description from witnesses, and officers found him near a sign by the YMCA. Gonzalez saw police and started to run. Police told him to stop, and they said he refused. After a short chase, police caught him.
According to court documents, Gonzalez told police he was walking down the street and picked the items up. He admitted he had a gun and stashed it in a bag by the YMCA. Police found the gun, along with a computer that belonged to the church’s pastor.
Before the arrest of Gonzalez, Quinones and his family caught a second suspect, later identified as Audriana Contero.
Church members said she had been the only car parked at the church. A member tried to block the exit to the parking lot but said Contero drove on the curb to escape. Quinones and his mother-in-law caught up with Contero in their vehicles and boxed her car in until police came, and she was arrested.
Police said Contero denied knowing Gonzalez and said she just dropped him off near the church. Gonzalez later identified her as his “wife.” She admitted to aiding Gonzalez by providing him transportation to commit a burglary of the church.
Contero and Gonzalez are facing several charges including burglary, possession of a controlled substance and robbery by threat.
The church lost thousands of dollars in equipment. They are accepting donations on Venmo (@mcilidsusa) and CashApp ($MCILIDSUSA).