Randy Roberts has seen much in his role as a Beaufort County Detention Center chaplain.
Good deeds driven by receiving favor in the court system.
And so he carried a dose of skepticism when told the man who vandalized Love House Community Bowling Center in Beaufort with racist graffiti wanted a meeting. But Roberts sat down with the man and with two other pastors who helped set up the meeting, Alex Mark and John Duncan of First Scots Presbyterian.
The man said he was sorry and that the racist and threatening message painted on the back of the Ribaut Road building last month were an act of stupidity, Roberts said. Roberts, a pastor who operates Love House Ministries with his wife, Theresa, asked the man if his apology was the result of legal advice.
The Beaufort resident, who is facing misdemeanor vandalism charges, said the apology was his choice and that he needed to look Roberts in the face and tell him he was sorry.
“And I would like to believe he was sincere,” Roberts said Wednesday. “I felt that he was sincere, and I hold on to that hope.”
The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet don’t typically identify those charged with misdemeanor crimes. Attempts to reach the man through Mark were unsuccessful.
The vandalism was discovered the morning of Aug. 19. Someone had written “KKK! Jackson Greant (sic) Lee KiLL Ni-’s” in red paint on the white wall on the back of the bowling center.
The facility is adjacent to a fire station, and firefighters and other city officials helped paint over the words the same morning.
The act spurred Roberts to offer a free community bowling event the following week, which drew hundreds. Security measures were in place for the event but weren’t needed, Roberts said.
A 53-year-old Beaufort man admitted to the vandalism after being identified with the help of video footage, Beaufort police said. He was released on $10,000 surety bond Aug. 25, Beaufort County court records show.
Mark, a Beaufort native, reached out to the man’s family after the arrest and helped facilitate the meeting.
“Undoubtedly the folks at Love House were deeply hurt, yet my confidence was they were willing to extend grace,” Mark said. “And they did.”
Roberts, who is black, grew up in Chicago where he said race riots were common at his Kennedy High School. He said police would pick him up without reason and drop him off in predominantly white neighborhoods or take him to jail.
Paint on a building is tame in comparison, he said.
In a Facebook post about his meeting with the man, Roberts said the pastors told the man they weren’t there to cast stones. In the post, Roberts also described himself before becoming a Christian as having been a drunkard, thief, womanizer, and an abusive and violent man.
He said the man who vandalized the bowling alley grew up here and is afraid for himself and his family. The pastors sent the man home with an assignment to read the Bible books of John, Romans and Hebrews.
“My prayer is that (he) will grow in the knowledge of Gods love as he starts his new journey. I pray protection for him and his family and they to will enjoy the peace of God,” Roberts wrote in his post Tuesday. “He knows that he has to be held accountable for his actions but I shared with him God has a way of making crooked places straight.”