Man arrested after driving into church, leaving scene then calling 911

PORTLAND — A 35-year-old man was arrested Monday morning after police say he rammed an SUV into a northeast Portland church.

In an early morning Christmas Eve surprise, the Southeast Asian Vicariate Church of Our Lady of Lavang located at 5404 Northeast Alameda Street was severely damaged.

Portland police responded to the church at 12:13 a.m. on the report of a vehicle crashing into it.

At the scene, officers found extensive damage to the building and its interior. Police searched the area but did not locate a suspect or suspect vehicle, but officers did locate evidence that indicated the make and model of the crash vehicle.

Based on the evidence, officers believed a suspect drove an Acura SUV into and through the inside of the church.

As officers were investigating, a 911 caller reported he was the one responsible for the crash.

Police went to the location of the 911 caller and found an Acura MDX and the suspect.

Officers said the Acura had damage consistent with being the suspect vehicle and was seized as evidence. The suspect, identified as Hieu John Phung, was arrested.

Phung was booked into the Multnomah County Jail on a first-degree criminal mischief charge.

FOX 12 spoke with the church pastor, Angar Pham Tinh, who said “I was very disappointed and very sad and I’m a little sad because someone broke into the church and damaged the church, that has not happened before.”

Parishioner Emily Do believes the crash was intentional, saying the damage done to the church doesn’t look accidental.

“Absolutely they meant to do it and they should totally be punished for it cause it’s just not something you,” Do told FOX 12.

Police said detectives with the bureau’s bias crime detail has assumed the investigation.

The church will hold its Christmas Eve and Christmas services as planned. The damage has been cleared and the exterior has been boarded up.

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