By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Who would damage a Christian monument and steal crosses meant for veterans’ graves?

That’s what investigators in Big Lake want to know after a group of vandals desecrated a cemetery in Big Lake, Minnesota.

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Big Lake Police Chief Joel Scharf was disgusted when he saw the damage at the “Our Lady of the Lake” Catholic cemetery.

“There are people that go back many generations in here, and it becomes a very personal crime when you see these types of things happen,” he said. “They broke the large cross off of the statue of Mary, and it appears they tried to use it as a ram to try and break up the foundation around it.”

Scharf believes the group responsible was trying to knock over the statue.

A passerby noticed the missing cross and called police. When they arrived, they found even more damage.

Planters and pots had been pulled off several plots–most of them broken into pieces.

They also broke into a storage facility and stole about 20 crosses, which the Big Lake American Legion chapter uses during Veteran’s Day events.

And a statue of Mary was turned upside down.

“The date was 12/13/14,” Scharf said. “We don’t know if there was some kind of symbolism that went with that, but typically when you see a cross placed in an upside down manner, we equate it with Satanic-type practices.”

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Tim Cox owns the Lake Cafe, a popular eatery in the heart of Big Lake.

“To vandalize something that’s sacred like that, why do it?” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Talk about what vandals did to the cemetery was the buzz of the cafe.

“I can’t believe that people would do that,” said Dallas Brentesen. “It is a sacred place where people are laid to rest, and it’s supposed to be [left]  in peace and I just think that it’s wrong.”

Scharf hopes places like the Lake Cafe will keep people talking and spark someone to come forward with information that could lead to an arrest.

He said vandalism like this is typically a juvenile or young adult crime.

But right now he’s not sure who could be responsible.

He knows by the footprints left behind that it was more than one person who caused the damage.

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Police are looking for the public’s help in solving this case.

Reg Chapman