Fire At Historically Black Church In North Carolina Declared Arson

June 25th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

Investigators in Charlotte, North Carolina have determined that a fire early Wednesday morning at a primarily Black church was arson, and are calling on the public for any information that could help solve the case. 

In a statement from the Charlotte Fire Department Wednesday, senior fire investigator David Williams said that after examining the scene overnight and Wednesday morning, investigators found burn patterns indicating that the fire was set on purpose. Officials were working to determine if the fire was a hate crime, according to reports, but in the statement, Williams did not elaborate on any further details.

"We completed our work on the scene and determined this was intentionally set," he said. 

Charlotte Fire Department spokesman Jackie Gilmore told ATTN: Thursday that there were no new developments in the case. 

The suspected arson comes a little more than a week after a racially motivated shooting killed nine in the historically Black Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, about three hours southeast of Charlotte. Apart from the possibility that Briar Creek was targeted because of its largely Black congregation of about 100 people, there was no connection between the two events.

Related: Here's the Best Reason for Calling the Charleston Shooting a Terrorist Attack

More than 75 firefighters responded to a 911 call shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday, and it took about an hour to get the third-alarm blaze under control. Two firefighters were treated for minor heat-related injuries. According to the department, damage to the Briar Creek Baptist Church is estimated at about $250,000. 

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"We have already forgiven them and we're hoping that the investigation will take place and do what's necessary," Briar Creek pastor Mannix Kinsey told reporters. When asked by local station WBTV about the possibility of a hate crime, Kinsey sounded incredulous. "We are still talking about this same issue and this is 2015," he said. "We all have to consider what else do we need to do to actually be able to work together."

According to the Charlotte Observer, fire investigators, the police department, and agents from two state bureaus were working to pursue leads.