6 churches in St. Louis, Missouri set on fire in past 2 weeks; probers confirm arson attacks linked to religion or race
Six churches in St. Louis, Missouri have been set on fire in the last two weeks with investigators confirming that all the incidents were arson attacks motivated either by religion or race.
The first fire was at the Bethel Nondenominational Church in Jennings, St. Louis on Oct. 8, according to the Associated Press.
This was followed by the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, St. Augustine Catholic Church, New Testament Church of Christ, New Life Missionary Baptist Church and Ebenezer Lutheran Church.
Five of them are black churches while the other one is racially mixed.
Authorities are now determining if the arsonist targeted religion or race.
Hate crime "is part of the dynamic" of the probe, said St. Louis Fire Capt. Garon Mosby. He told KTVI that "it is arson."
"These are being intentionally set. This is not spontaneous combustion, so they are not occurring on their own," he said.
Rev. David Triggs of the New Life Missionary Baptist Church described the attacker as someone who "is a spiritually sick person."
"This is a sin issue. It's not a race issue," he said. In each case, the front doors were set on fire.
He added, "I have prayed for them. I have forgiven them. I don't want the communities to be angry. I don't want the churches to be angry, because it is in these moments that our character is tested."
A day after the New Life church fire, members gathered for an outdoor service. Triggs said the church was not insured.
Michele Brown, business manager at St. Augustine, said fire damage to the church was to the two front doors.
"We are upset and we're concerned that there's an individual who, for whatever reason, is sick. We prayed for them Sunday. There's something wrong with someone who would do something like that," she said.
Rev. Rodrick Burton of New Northside said there was an "apathetic" response to the fires locally.
"Whether you practice faith or you don't, everyone should be very concerned about that," Burton said. "Religious freedom is part of our identity as Americans."