Someone allegedly knocked an Indiana priest unconscious in church and told him “this is for all the little kids,” according to law enforcement officials.
Father Basil John Hutsko told CBS Chicago he had been praying at the altar in Saint Michael Byzantine Catholic Church in Merrillville around 9 a.m. local time on Monday when an unknown attacker approached him from behind.
“The whole front of his head went into the floor,” Joseph Petruch, chief of the Merrillville Police Department, told CBS Chicago. “Grabbed him by the neck, threw him down on the floor and immediately started slamming his head against the floor.”
Hate Crime investigation: NW Indiana priest attacked, knocked unconscious inside his Merrillville church.
Rev. Basil Hutsko says attacker made mention of abuse by priests against children.
Attack happened Monday at St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church.@cbschicago pic.twitter.com/hYOEMrtWgd
— Audrina Bigos (@AudrinaBigos) August 22, 2018
The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, Jeff Rice, a spokesman for the Merrillville Police Department, told the Chicago Tribune. He said the attacker referred to a recent report of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Earlier this month, the office of the Pennsylvania attorney general released an 884-page report finding that six Roman Catholic dioceses in the state had covered up sexual abuse by 301 “predator priests” over 70 years.
Hutsko has never been accused of sex abuse, Rev. Thomas Loya, Hutsko’s friend, told CBS Chicago.
“He’s a very dedicated priest and hard-working,” Loya said. “It’s just a random attack of an innocent priest.”
Representatives for both Saint Michael Byzantine Catholic Church and the Merrillville Police Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.