A Buddhist monk was attacked and robbed at his temple home in Nashville, Tennessee, on the morning of 27 November. Security footage from the incident appears to show five people, four women and a man, fleeing the temple grounds in a van. The theft came days after police in several north Texas cities warned that a ring of thieves was targeting Buddhist temples in the area. No suspects have been apprehended.
Police in Nashville report that Nom Lengsavath, a Buddhist monk who has lived at Wat Lao Buddhist Temple for four years, was attacked at around 9 a.m. Lengsavath stated that he heard a knock at the front door and saw a woman holding a small child. Before he could react, the door was forced open.
“Every time I’m talking about it happened, I feel, you know, the same thing I feel the day it happened, but I’m not scared,” Lengslvath said. “The day it happened, it’s my fault. I opened the door and I don’t know what’s going on that day that made me open the door.” (WHNT)
Four women and a man burst into the temple and attacked Lengslvath. Several held him down, while the others searched the temple and stole approximately US$4,000 in cash. Surveillance footage from outside the temple shows the group fleeing in a silver Toyota van.
“This all happened so fast I didn’t have time to react,” Lengsavath said. (KRDO)
Lengslvath said he had noticed similar robberies targeting Buddhist temples in the region. “I want the cop to catch them and take them to jail,” he added. (WHNT)
A week earlier, a similar theft occurred at Wat Busayadhammvanaram, a Thai temple in White Settlement, Texas, just over 1,100 kilometers from Nashville. There, just before 12:30 p.m. on 20 November, witnesses said that nine people got out of a silver van similar to the one seen in Nashville. The group was made up of women with one male.
“We let them come in, and he asked the monk to pray for his brother because his brother had cancer. He’s in the hospital,” said Sulee Adams, a translator for Saravut Pumcharoen, a monk who was present at the time. He added that in practice, the Buddhist temple did not turn away anyone in need. (WFAA)
According to Pumcharoen, three of the women blocked him in one room while others in the group searched other rooms in the temple for things to steal.
In the end, the thieves got away with US$38,000 in cash, according to White Settlement police chief Christopher Cook. “They’re really preying upon these facilities,” said Cook. “It’s very unfortunate that somebody would prey upon a faith-based organization like our Buddhist temple.” (WFAA)
Cook said he had been in contact with the authorities in Irving and Fort Worth, Texas, where similar thefts at Buddhist temples have occurred. Other incidents beyond Texas had already been reported, prompting the FBI to join the investigation. The FBI will also seek to determine whether the thefts constitute hate crimes.
“They were taken advantage of. You had a group of criminals that walked in here deliberately distracting the monk, distracting other leadership here with the goal of trying to steal as much money as they had. It basically wiped them out, took all their donations. That’s horrific,” said Cook. (WFAA)
Police are seeking the public’s help in locating and identifying the suspects and their vehicle.
Theft ring believed to be targeting Buddhist temples in North Texas (Yahoo News)
Buddhist monk attacked as intruders — one holding toddler — ransack temple, TN cops say (The Telegraph)
Buddhist Monk shares story of attack, $4,000 robbery (WHNT)
‘I didn’t have time to react’: Monk shares after getting attacked outside South Nashville temple (KRDO)
Police investigating thefts at multiple Buddhist temples throughout North Texas (WFAA)
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