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Gravestone attack was 'alternative' religious practice

Has happened before at Shafter Cemetery

At least 50 graves at Shafter Cemetery were marred with eggs and what appeared to be raw animal meat last week – and it wasn't the first time, according to a police spokesman who called it an "alternative" religious practice..

On Friday morning, police were dispatched to the cemetery on Santa Fe Way regarding a case of possible vandalism. A Shafter resident – who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution from the person or group that did the damage – said that she was visiting a relative's gravesite and was shocked by the sight she encountered. "Over 50 graves had broken eggs on their headstones, and a few of the graves had chunks of raw meat from a small animal that had been wrapped in twine, had nails driven through it and placed on headstones."

The resident contacted Alicia Castillo, currently acting manager of the cemetery, and related what she had seen. She said Castillo also was disturbed by the sight and contacted the Shafter Police Department about a possible case of vandalism.

"We have a good cemetery, with good people," Castillo said when asked about the incident. "This doesn't happen very often." Neither the police or Castillo would provide details on prior similar incidents.

The flat headstones were still in a state of disrepair on Friday morning when police arrived, including what appeared to be the meat from small animals, though they were hard to identify.

When officers arrived, they checked out the graves that had been affected by the actions of a person, or persons, probably late Thursday night or early morning hours Friday..

After some investigation, Lieutenant Joshua Stephens gave a statement to The Shafter Press.

"We have dealt with similar instances in the past. After investigating, we have deemed the incident not a case of vandalism," he said.

Stephens went on to say that it was probably "a person or persons practicing their right of freedom of religion. These practices are common in a couple of forms of alternative religions. This was not vandalism."

When made aware of this, the initial informant of the incident did not agree with the department's view on the incident. "I am all for people having the right to practice their religious freedoms, but not if it affects graves of people that they don't even know or may not want that action taken on their headstones."

Another Shafter resident, who also asked to be anonymous, said, "I pray every day, and love the Lord. I believe that everyone has the right to have a religion in their life. But, I can't see how doing that to someone's or some loved ones grave without the family's consent is disgusting and should be illegal."

Stephens said that he could not get into any specifics on the past cases, or what religions that he was talking about in the statement, but did say that "freedom of religion is for everyone in this country."

 

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