Q&A with ATF on East Texas church fires

| February 10, 2010

Some blame Muslims for the East Texas church fires. Some blame Palin-hating liberals. Some blame the devil.

The online speculation was enough to make me call Tom Crowley, spokesman for the Dallas office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Here's a quick summary of what we talked about:

Q: Does any evidence point to Muslims, liberals or Satan?
A: No.

Q: Any sense of what's motivating the arsonist(s)?
A: "We just don't know … I wouldn't rule anything out."

Q: What do you see as the possible motives?
A: "It doesn't have to be a hate crime." Thrill-seeking vandals might be responsible. The fires might be set to cover up other crime.

Q: What sort of other crime?
A: Non-religious items have been stolen from some of the churches.

Q: Where on church property were the fires set?
A: Various indoor locations; most cases involved forced entry.

Q: What types of churches have been targeted?
A: A wide variety of Protestant ones, including Baptist, United Methodist, Christian Scientist (pictured above, from a Jan. 17 fire in Tyler) and nondenominational. Most, but not all, have predominantly white congregations.

Q: What accelerants, if any, have been used?
A: No comment.

Q: Any advice for churches and their neighbors?
A: "Be aware of any activity around the church." Keep the place well lit. Keep vegetation trimmed.



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Category: Church Security

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