A Catholic priest was attacked while praying at his church in Merrillville, Indiana, on Monday. The FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime, after a man allegedly beat the priest while yelling, "This is for all the little kids."
What are the details?
The Rev. Basil John Hutsko told authorities that an unidentified man approached him at the altar in St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church around 9 a.m.
Merrillville Police Chief Joseph Petruch told WBBM-TV that the assailant "grabbed [Father Hutsko] by the neck, threw him down on the floor and immediately started slamming his head against the floor. Both sides, front and back."
Petruch said, "The subject yelled out 'This is for all the little kids.' I have enough there to say it's a hate crime."
The 64-year-old priest was treated at the scene and transported to a hospital after the incident. Merrillville police spokesman Commander Jeff Rice told the Chicago Tribune that Hutsko was "definitely bruised and banged up."
What brought that on?
Police believe the attacker was referencing a recent grand jury report outlining decades of systemic child abuse covered up by sthe leaders of six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.
But Hutsko wasn't named in the report or linked to it.
WBBM's Audrina Bigos asked Petruch if Father Hutsko was targeted because of his past, and Petruch replied, "We're unsure of that. We're looking into his past."
Fellow priest Rev. Steven Koplinka, who knows Hutsko, came to his defense speaking to the Chicago Tribune.
Koplinka said of Hutsko, "He's a good priest and like everybody said, he's not accused of anything. Why attack him?. It's just like they're targeting the wrong guys, you know? The rest of us try our best to be good priests and unfortunately this happened."
No arrests have been made in the attack. Anyone with information is asked to call Commander Rice or Detective Sean Buck at 219-769-3722