A man suspected of the vandalism has been detained. Authorities identified him as Isaiah Cantrell, 30, of El Paso. He was charged with criminal mischief and possession of marijuana, the El Paso Times reported.
He had told police the statue had the wrong skin color, adding, "Jesus was Jewish and therefore should be a darker skin color," KVIA reported.
The El Paso Police Department is investigating the vandalism, which occurred around 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Patrick Cathedral, when the church was open and available for prayer.
The vandalism left church leaders stunned.
The rector of St. Patrick, the Rev. Trini Fuentes, said in a statement: “I am in shock and we at the cathedral are heartbroken over such an unexpected situation.”
Bishop Mark J. Seitz also spoke out.
“This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus — his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us. I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass,” Seitz said in a statement.
“As sad as I am to see a statue attacked and destroyed, I am grateful that it was not a living person,” the bishop added. “But a statue, particularly this statue, concretizes and connects us to persons and ideals that are not visible to our eyes. They reveal to us realities that are close to us, but unseen.”
Cantrell was booked into the El Paso County jail on bonds totaling $20,5000, the El Paso Times reported.