CARMICHAEL (CBS13) — A church congregation has been left without heat after copper thieves ripped open their sanctuary two nights in a row.

Carmichael Bible Church Pastor Matt Potratz said it appears the suspects knew exactly what they were after when they circumvented the property’s locked back gate and stole copper from their huge air conditioning and heating units.

“They basically started gutting them and grabbing anything that’s of value,” Potratz said.

The suspects spent the first night preparing for the costly theft by draining the Freon out of the machines and tore out as much copper as they could carry on the second night. The thieves left behind tools, Potratz said, raising concerns that they may return for a third night.

“There’s still a chance, maybe, that they’re gonna come back,” he said.

The damage will likely add up to more than $50,000. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department planned to increase patrols around the church overnight Thursday to deter further thefts.

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