BATF joins investigation of fire that destroyed church, mosque; arson, hate crime not ruled out

| April 28, 2011

STOCKTON – Work continued Monday to fortify a fire-damaged strip mall to make it sufficiently safe for investigators from the Stockton Fire Department and the federal government to determine the cause of a blaze that gutted a mosque and damaged a church early Saturday.

Deputy Fire Chief Paul Willette said investigatory assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been enlisted "not because we suspect anything at this point" regarding the possibility of arson, but because the presence of the mosque and the church could have made either one of them the target of a hate crime. Willette said he hopes investigators will be able to begin their work today.

BATF spokeswoman Helen Dunkel said her agency will provide a dog to sniff for fire accelerants as well as an electrical expert to determine whether the blaze had an electrical origin.

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Category: Church Security

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