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$70 debt sparks rampage at church

Tue., Dec. 22, 2009, 7:59 p.m.

A 56-year-old man who investigators say was so angry over a $70 repair bill he rammed his truck into a Spokane church and ransacked the inside was arrested Tuesday.

Mark T. Heitman, a parishioner of the Country Crossroads Church at 7011 N. Altamont St., allegedly drove his Chevrolet pickup truck into the church building to gain entry Monday night, the Spokane County Sherriff’s Office said. Nearly every window, television, computer and light fixture was smashed during the rampage, which caused thousands of dollars of damage, the pastor said.

The tirade was apparently sparked over a $70 repair bill that the church owed Heitman for some electrical work he had done.

“I tried to pay him with a check and he wouldn’t take a check, so I guess he got mad because I didn’t have any cash here at the time,” said Pastor Dan Eubank. “So I guess he decided to take (the money) another way.”

According to court records, it’s not the first time that Heitman has faced criminal charges for driving his truck through a building in a rage over money.

Documents show he still owes more than $40,000 in restitution and accrued interest stemming from a January 1996 incident in which he smashed his truck into the Child Support Enforcement building, 1600 W. Boone Ave., telling authorities “they were taking all of his money.” Court records state Heitman grabbed a hammer and “went to work on the computers.” He then drove his damaged truck to the Spokane County Jail to turn himself in.

Eubank said Heitman became enraged Monday when the church could not pay him cash, and was also agitated over other personal issues. Eubank said he knew of Heitman’s previous violent outburst and criminal convictions.

Before vandalizing the church Monday, Heitman also allegedly smashed out the windshield and the windows of the pastor’s truck while it was parked at his home in the 600 block of East Rich Avenue.

Heitman was located and arrested at an automotive shop in the 2900 block of North Nevada on Tuesday, and booked into jail on felony charges of second-degree burglary and malicious mischief.

Eubank said the church had to cancel Wednesday services, as well as a candlelight service planned for Christmas Eve for its 120 parishioners.

When asked whether Heitman would be barred from the congregation, the Pastor replied: “We don’t operate that way, we’ve forgiven him. If he wants to come back, he’s more than welcome.”

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