Charlotte church fire was arson, but no hate crime investigation ‘at this time,’ FBI says


CHARLOTTE (WATE) – Police were investigating the cause of a fire at a predominantly black church in North Carolina that is believed to have been set on purpose — but FBI officials said there was no hate crimes investigation “at this time.”

The blaze, which reportedly caused more than $250,000 in damage, was reported at the Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in east Charlotte just before 1 a.m. Wednesday and investigators have determined that it was arson, The Associated Press reported.

“We completed our work on the scene and determined this was intentionally set,” Charlotte Fire Department senior investigator David Williams told the AP.

Investigators have released no details about the crime nor any evidence that they used to determine it was arson. Macon-Bibb Fire Sgt. Ben Gleaton said there’s no evidence that it was a hate crime, the AP said.

The Charlotte police and fire departments, as well as the Brier Creek Baptist Association, a state organization of Baptist churches, did not respond the ABC News’ request for comment. The church’s website is down.

Earlier, Williams told the Charlotte Observer that the investigation has now turned to whether the incident was a hate crime, though the FBI spokesperson in Charlotte told ABC News that there is no hate crime investigation into the fire “at this time.”

There is a local task force in charge of investigating the fire and its cause.

“The FBI is not involved in the task force at this time but is aware of the investigation,” the spokesman said.

The burned church’s pastor, Mannix Kinsey, spoke to ABC affiliate WSOC-TV about how he is certain his congregation will forgive whoever is responsible. The suspect or suspects have not been identified by investigators.

“Honestly, I can speak for this church; we’ve already forgiven him,” Kinsey told WSOC.

“We really want to actually cover it in love. We actually don’t have any malice against anyone else,” he said.

The damage to the Briar Creek Road church is estimated to be more than $250,000, according to a fire department source who spoke to the AP, but the minister does not seem concerned about the cost.

“These buildings can be repaired, you know, and so it’s an opportunity for hearts to be repaired as well,” he told WSOC.

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