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PINECREST (CBSMiami) —  Parishioners and a Pinecrest pastor are asking for help to find those who stole pricey equipment from their church.

It was equipment bought by Kendall United Methodist Church to clean up the grounds and help other churches clean up debris after Hurricane Irma.

Cameras captured the thieves hauling away the church’s John Deere 410D Backhoe worth more than $16,000.

That item, along with a tractor, chainsaws and other equipment worth a total of more than $26,000 were taken from the church at SW 77th Avenue and SW 104th Street last Sunday around 5 p.m.

Pastor Ruben Velasco told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “We had the backhoe parked here for the weekend and our mission is to help other people. And this was going to be used to clean up debris from Irma and at other churches. We were going to help other people and churches.”

Velasco said the backhoe was stolen 10 days after it was purchased.

“It’s just sad when you are trying to do some good and do the right thing and in the middle of the day at 5 o’clock when you are in a meeting at the church and they steal it. It hurts. It hurts me and the church and parishioners and others in the community. I would like to say if you see anything or know anything call the police so we can get it back and help our neighbors,” said Velasco.

A witness said they saw two thin, Latin men in their 20s load the backhoe onto a flatbed truck.

Al Merritt, who has been a parishioner for more than two decades and who helped raise the money needed to buy the equipment, said, “I feel terrible about it. It’s absurd. We want to do things to help the community and the same time we deliver the backhoe and the truck to remove stumps here and set up for the annual pumpkin patch, someone steals it.”

“It would be great if someone would call in,” said Merritt, “but I am just afraid that someone is going to break down the backhoe in to pieces and sell it off as parts.”

Anyone who has information in the case is urged to call Pinecrest Police at (305) 234-2100 or Kendall United Methodist Church at 305-304-0107 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).


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