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Girl planning attack on Gainesville church idolized Charleston shooter, bishop says

The pastor of the church feels the alleged plot to attack them mirrors racial tensions in the area.

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Authorities say the 16-year-old girl who planned an attack on a predominantly black Gainesville church idolized Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.

The Gainesville community tells 11Alive that something needs to change. 

They say they are frustrated. They feel the alleged plot to attack them mirrors racial tensions in the area. 

Meanwhile, leaders in the AME Church are calling on all religious groups to step up security measures

"In Hall County, I'm not surprised. Back in the day they used to have the KKK marching through here," Gainesville resident Marlon Coleman said.  

He alleges history is only repeating itself. The 16-year-old girl is accused of plotting an attack on Gainesville's Bethel African American Episcopal Church a week ago. Authorities reportedly told church leaders she admired Roof, the teen who killed nine parishioners at a bible study at a Charleston, South Carolina church four years ago. 

RELATED: Police: Teen had plan to attack metro Atlanta church, murder 'multiple' people

"It is troubling as a minister that I would have to say that I'm glad that we are glad that Bethel Gainesville did not have bible study last Wednesday," said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Police say the plot was stopped after other students at Gainesville High School alerted school staff. 

"For her to be 16, I wonder where she's getting all that hatred from?" Coleman asked.

Church leaders are questioning whether someone else may be involved after they say a young man inquired about bible study times last week. That has not been confirmed by police, though. 

"Unfortunately these situations have a way of encouraging others with the same ideology," Jackson said. "I'm sending a message to the 500 AME churches in Georgia addressing the issues with church security."

RELATED: Charleston, SC, shooter moved to federal death row

Bethel says it will do its part to amp up security. They say they're concerned the denomination may be a target because of the role its played in civil rights and social justice issues. 

"We already lock the back door as soon as worship starts. Ushers are the first line of security," Jackson said.

However, for Coleman, he says a much deeper issue needs to be addressed in Gainesville and Hall County. 

“I’m dealing with something now. Gainesville has long been a place where African-Americans can’t thrive," he said.

As of now, police say the 16-year-old is being charges as a juvenile. Because of that, her name is not being released. 


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