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Three Arrested for Trespassing, Posting Flyers at Fresno Synagogue and Church
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 3, 2024

A van believed to belong to suspect Christopher Avila is found at St. Anthony of Padua Church on Thursday, May 3, 2024. (GV Wire/Anthony Haddad)

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Fresno police arrested three men after they were caught attaching religious flyers at a synagogue and a Catholic church on Thursday.

There was a third site hit the flyers, but police would not reveal where.

The messages were posted with painters tape at Temple Beth Israel, and at nearby St. Anthony of Padua.

“Employees of the temple confronted the men, asking them to stop and leave their premises. Initially, the men quoted bible verses, and questioned the employee’s beliefs. When the employees spoke about taking down the paper signs, the men made threatening statements if they did. The three men then left the temple,” authorities said in a news release.

Police found Christopher Avila, 32, Daniel Watson, 32, and Colin Laurila, 31 at the church.

All three face three misdemeanor counts — trespassing, conspiracy to commit a crime, and unlawfully posting signs on private property.

Avila faces an additional felony count of making a criminal threat.

The posting charge identified by police applies to posts on public property relating to an advertisement of goods or services. It is unclear how the charge applies in this case.

Jail records show Laurila and Watson were released at about 3:40 a.m. Friday. Avila remained in custody as of 2:35 p.m. Friday.

Fresno police arrested, from left to right: Daniel Watson, Christopher Avila, and Colin Laurila. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

Synagogue, Church Respond

Neither Temple Beth Israel nor St. Anthony of Padua were damaged, officials said.

“It is not unusual for us to receive religious messages by mail and email. Occasionally we receive phone calls. It is unusual to have someone come in person feeling the need to proclaim their message. Apparently, these suspects have targeted houses of worship across the country including churches and synagogues,” Rabbi Rick Winer said in an email to temple members on Thursday.

Winer thanked law enforcement for their quick reaction.

“There is no indication of continuing concern. That being said, we always maintain vigilance and our partnership with law enforcement,” Winer said.

“While we respect the right to freedom of speech, it needs to be done in a legal, respectful, Christ-like way. We have no clue as to why our church was targeted,” Diocese of Fresno spokesperson Chandler Marquez said.

Marquez had words of encouragement for his Jewish friends.

“We pray for our friend Rabbi Rick Winer and his community, as they have endured so much over the past months,” Marquez said.

Suspect Christopher Avila is seen in custody. (GV Wire/Anthony Haddad)

Suspects Have Online Presence

An X page associated with Laurila says he is from Oregon. It contains several religious-oriented posts.

A YouTube page associated with Avila shows one video with him visiting Hill Cumorah, a New York religious site associated with Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Avila is seen passing out flyers, before he is asked to leave.

Avila complied. A van appears in the video, similar to the van found at the scene of St. Anthony of Padua.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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