City News Service

Two Brothers, One of Them Naked, Arrested in a Bizarre Church Break-In and Standoff

The men tossed a smoke bomb from inside the church, then surrendered in varying degrees of undress

Two brothers -- one of whom was naked -- surrendered to authorities on Wednesday after an unusual two-hour standoff with police at an Irvine church.

The Irvine Police Department responded to the call around 7:10 p.m. from a security guard at a business near Harvest Orange County church in the 17000 block of Gillette Avenue. The guard noticed two men near the church carrying what appeared to be a rifle.

The men smashed a glass door and entered the church. No one was in the building at the time and no injuries were reported.

During the ensuing standoff, SWAT officers monitored the subjects using a video feed from security cameras inside the church. About two hours later, the men hurled a smoke bomb outside the church and came out -- one was naked, the other was partially clothed, police said.

The men were taken into custody and a search of the church property uncovered what appeared to be a replica rifle. It remains unclear why they were undressed. 

The suspects were identifed Thursday by police as twenty-five-year-old Brandon Joseph Vielkind and brother Paul Vincent Vielkind, 34. They were booked on suspicion of burglary and felony vandalism.

It was not immediately clear whether either man has an attorney. Jail records did not indicate an upcoming court date.

Rhonda Hodges, the pair's mother, told NBC4 she thinks her sons were trying to make a statement because she was kicked out of the Harvest church in Riverside, where she claims she was verbally abused and discriminated against.

"They just want to get a message out there that fear is what causes people to do things that are mean and malicious, and they wanted to show fearlessness," Hodges said.

According to their Facebook pages, Paul Vielkind was in the Marine Corps and Brandon Vielkind was in a men's group at Harvest church. Paul suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder when he returned from the Marine Corps, Hodges said.

The brothers have criminal records in Arizona for trespassing, assault and resisting arrest, court records show.

Riverside-based Pastor Greg Laurie is the head of the nondenominational church. Since the break-in Laurie has posted a message about the crime to his congregation on Facebook.

The church will take "additional security precautions for the foreseeable future," he said. No motive for the break-in was determined early Thursday. 

"Harvest continues to work with local authorities to assess the motive and intention of these criminals," the church said in a statement. "At this point, it appears to be an extravagant act of vandalism. We are confident the situation is fully resolved, all services and programs will continue as normal, but Harvest is taking additional security measures for the foreseeable future as a precaution.

"We appreciate the extraordinary work of the local authorities and are thankful to God for the prayers and abundant support of our community. The fact that the situation was resolved so quickly attests to the professionalism of the Police and also to the safety measures Harvest already had in place as a congregation."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Irvine Police Department at 949-724-7000.

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