Exactly a week after a gunman massacred nine people at a historic Black church in South Carolina, police are investigating a deliberate fire that destroyed a predominantly Black church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
According to NBC, Charlotte fire officials have officially ruled the blaze at Briar Creek Baptist Church arson, but police are investigating if the fire was a hate crime. Although officials have no leads on the motivation behind the blaze, they have not yet ruled out the possibility of hate, especially since the crime occurred a week to the day of the Charleston Mother Emanuel AME church shooting.
Pastor Mannix Kinsey said the church’s congregation has already forgiven the culprit. “Buildings can be repaired, they can be built over,” Kinsey told NBC affiliate WCNC. “This is the opportunity for God to touch the hearts of individuals.”
No civilians were injured in the fire, though the Washington Post reports that two firefighters suffered minor heat-related injuries. The blaze, which destroyed the church’s main building, caused an estimated $250,000 in damages.
The Briar Creek Baptist Church houses a congregation of about 100 people. Police are continuing their investigation.