A 35-year-old Santa Ana man pleaded guilty Thursday and was immediately placed on three years of probation for slamming his way into a church with a metal pipe.

Joel Fabian Sandoval pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of vandalism, according to court records. As part of the plea deal, two felony counts of vandalism and a count of vandalism of religious property were dismissed.

Sandoval used a large metal pipe to slam his way into the Johnson Chapel AME Church at 1306 W. Second St. just before 8:40 a.m., July 2, 2019, according to Santa Ana Police Department Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

Sandoval clubbed the front doors with the pipe and, once inside, used the pipe to repeatedly strike a set of secondary doors, Bertagna said.

Before he broke into the church, Sandoval attempted to get into a utility shed at the rear of the church and also damaged another door on the side of the church, Bertagna said.

During questioning by detectives he indicated it was not a hate crime, police said. He was not a member of the congregation, police said.

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