Tip hotline established in church arsons probe; rumor of arrested suspect false

| January 23, 2010

Local, state and federal authorities dispelled rumors Friday that an arrest was imminent in a string of church arsons, which have plagued East Texas since late December.

"We do have persons of interest in the case, but some of those persons are being cleared as soon as we talk to them. As for a solid suspect, we do not have one in this case," said Clay Alexander, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives senior resident agent in charge of the Tyler office.
Authorities announced they have created the East Texas Church Arson Task Force, which is being housed at the Texas Department of Public Safety Office at 4700 University Blvd. in Tyler.

The task force is scheduled to answer calls 24 per day at 903-939-6169 or 903-939-6172.

"We would like to encourage anyone with information no matter how insignificant you may think something is to please call us. The information might be more important than you think," Tyler Fire Chief Neal Franklin said during a press conference Friday.

Since late December two churches in Tyler have burned, one in Lindale, three in Athens, one in Canton and one in Corsicana. The First Baptist Church in Temple also burned earlier this week, and ATF officials are working that case as well.

Alexander said it was still not clear if the fires were the work of one person a group or multiple suspects.

"The evidence has been sent to our labs in San Francisco and in Maryland and to the FBI lab for analysis and this case has been given top priority. As soon as they know something they will contact us," he said.

Alexander said it was important for the public to know there was an increased presence of law enforcement in the area and more than 10 different agencies were working together to come to a successful ending in the case.

"We live, work and go to church in this community too, so this is important to us," he said.

Franklin reiterated Alexander's comments, saying every resource available was being used to catch the person or persons responsible for the arsons.

The ATF is offering a $10,000 reward in the case and are urging anyone with information to contact the hotline numbers or their national tip line at 1-888-ATF-FIRE.

"We really feel like someone out there may know who this is. If they will only contact us and turn this person in, then we will give them $10,000. We want to put an end to this before another church is burned," he said.

 

http://www.cbs19.tv/Global/story.asp?S=11865483

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Category: Church Security

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