A white teenager who admitted to plotting to kill Black churchgoers last year was sentenced to four years in juvenile detention on Thursday.
Caitlyn Pye, 17, will also face 10 years of probation upon her release from the Department of Juvenile Justice at the age of 21.
Pye, of Gainesville, Georgia, at city of less than 50,000 people about an hour north of Atlanta, was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder after she plotted a deadly attack on worshippers at the city’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in November 2019.
School resource officers in Gainesville were made aware that Pye had “detailed” written plans to “commit murder” in a notebook. When school officials searched Pye’s bag, they found the notebook, one T-shirt with the phrase “natural selection,” written on it, and another with “Free Dylann Storm Roof” on it, along with swastikas drawn on each sleeve, the Gainesville Times reported.
White domestic terrorist Dylann Roof murdered nine Black worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
The back of one shirt said: “I had to do it because somebody had to do something, because Black people are killing White people every day on the streets. What I did is still miniscule compared to what they’re doing to White people every day. I do consider myself a White supremacist.” The quote nearly mirrors Roof’s statements found in his online manifesto and a journal after the Charleston Massacre.
There were also two knives in the bag. Pye visited the church she intended to target several times, but there was no one there.
Pye is forbidden from having any contact with any AME church in the state of Georgia, and is required to remain 150 yards away from any other AME church. The sentence also requires that she write an apology letter to the church and attend court-ordered counseling.
“I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done,” Pye said in court Thursday, Oct. 22. She pleaded guilty to one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.
Bethel AME Church was started more than 100 years ago, and the congregation is made up of 40 members.
“While we are angered and frustrated by this incident, we do not hold hostility against this defendant. While she apparently hates or hated us, we do not hate her, and do not wish to nullify her future, and do not give up on her,” said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, the presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the AME Church.
Pye visited the church with the knives on two Wednesdays in November. Officials learned of the plot two days after her second visit. She said told a school resource office she fully intended to carry out her plan.
Rev. Michelle Rizer-Pool, pastor of Bethel AME, said church attendance dropped as members became fearful after news of the plot spread. The church has spent $8,500 on new security measures, like changing locks and hiring off-duty police officers.
In court, Pye’s mother said her daughter was “such a great child,” who was not taught to hate.