Police are investigating whether a fire at a predominantly Black church in North Carolina is a hate crime, authorities have said.
A blaze 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.
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.
Williams told the Charlotte Observer that the investigation has now turned to whether it was a hate crime.
The fire happened almost exactly a week after white man opened fire at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine. The Department of Justice is expected to file federal hate crime charges in that case.
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.