A Modesto man faces charges of vandalism and arson after allegedly setting a small fire outside Congregation Beth Shalom and drawing what he said is a devil on the synagogue’s concrete walkway.
Police were dispatched to a report of a person loitering at the 1705 Sherwood Ave. synagogue at about 5:15 p.m. Monday. Because CBS is tucked back from a quiet length of Sherwood before it dead-ends south of Briggsmore Avenue, occasional transient campers there have been a problem for several years, police Lt. Steve Stanfield said.
The reporting party from the synagogue had been watching the suspect, later identified as Brett Allen Bisnett, and had surveillance video of him pulling plants from the ground.
Police made contact with Bisnett, 37, who claimed to have mental health issues, Stanfield said. He had set a small teddy bear on fire a few feet from a synagogue wall and made a drawing in black permanent marker on the concrete, the lieutenant said.
Brett told officers the drawing was a devil, and God told him to draw it.
There is no indication the drawing and fire were intended as messages of hate, Stanfield said. The fire most likely was for warmth, he said, but if it had gotten out of control, it could have damaged the building.
Tuesday morning, the drawing remained on the walkway just outside a synagogue entrance, and pulled plants still lay on the ground, along with the packaging of the marker Bisnett apparently used.
The suspect remained in custody Tuesday morning, facing charges of vandalism to a place of worship, arson and a parole violation.