UPDATE NO. 2, SEPT. 1, 2:51 P.M.: Brandon Joseph Vielkind could get four years and four months in state prison and his brother Paul Vincent Vielkind faces a decade based on the charges filed against them by the Orange County District Attorney’s office (OCDA) today.
At a scheduled arraignment hearing today, 23-year-old Brandon Joseph Vielkind, whose city of residence is now given as Anaheim instead of Riverside, was to answer to felony second degree burglary, vandalism over $400, possession of an assault weapon and unlawful assault weapon activity.
Paul Vielkind faces the same counts as well as possession of a firearm with a prior enumerated offense and possession of ammunition by a prohibited person as the 24-year-old has a prior conviction for assault with a deadly weapon in Riverside, where he resides, according to the OCDA.
The weapons charges not only account for the airlift replica rifle and four boxes of ammunition the brothers allegedly had on them at Harvest Church in Irvine, say prosecutors, who disclosed the pair is also accused of possessing a handgun and an assault rifle at Brandon Vielkind’s Anaheim apartment.
UPDATE NO. 1, SEPT. 1, 7:52 A.M.: Rhonda Hodges, the mother of the two young men arrested for barricading themselves inside the Harvest Church in Irvine Wednesday, reportedly says her sons were trying to force a meeting with famous Harvest Crusade pastor Greg Laurie because another minister had implied that her mother was an alcoholic because she is Native American.
“I had suffered emotional trauma from a particular pastor at Harvest,” Hodges told the Orange County Register, “and when I had appealed to the higher-ups in the church, nothing was done about it.”
The story goes on to quote Hodges saying her sons wanted Laurie to know they do not like racial discrimination against their mother, that while experimenting with drugs they came up with the idea to enter the church naked to display their fearlessness, and that they accused Christian megachurches of failing to show the love of Christ to people. A Harvest spokesperson told the Anaheim daily that the church is praying for the family, something Hodges, a 22-year member, said she appreciated. (The spokesperson also denies the church discriminates against anyone.)
Meanwhile, more details have emerged about Brandon Vielkind, a former San Diego resort salesman, and Paul Vielkind, who served in the Marines and, according to his mother, suffers from PTSD. Both of her sons are currently unemployed. They had previously attended the Harvest churches in Irvine and Riverside. At the time of his arrest, Paul Vielkind was on probation for a September 2016 conviction of assault with a deadly weapon. A day before the church break-in, he was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication in Riverside and released.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 1, 6:50 A.M.: Two brothers—one nekkid, the other apparently on the way there—were arrested Wednesday night for allegedly breaking into the Harvest Church in Irvine with a replica rifle.
Yes, that would be the Orange County satellite of the mega-church of the same name in Riverside, which is the launching pad for pastor and televangelist Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusade events that fill Anaheim Stadium every summer.
Paul Vincent Vielkind, 24, and Brandon Joseph Vielkind, 22, both of Riverside, are charged with burglary and felony vandalism, according to the Irvine Police Department, which offers this account:
On Thursday around 7:10 p.m., a security guard at a neighboring business reported to police that two males approached the north side of the church carrying what appeared to be a rifle. The suspects smashed a glass door to gain entry to the church, which was unoccupied at the time.
Irvine Police Department officers responded and the IPD SWAT team was called to the scene. Police were able to watch a video feed of the suspects thanks to surveillance cameras inside the church. Around 9:20 p.m., the suspects threw a smoke bomb outside of the church and exited the building, one without clothing and one partially clothed. Both were taken into custody without incident.
Officers who searched the area for weapons found what appears to be a replica rifle, according to police.
There is no known motive for the break-in at this time, say police and church officials. Anyone with information is asked to call the Irvine Police Department at 949.724.7000.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.