A string of fires at seven black churches in the South has sparked an outcry on social media and the attention of federal authorities. At least three of the fires are being investigated as possible arsons, the Washington Post reports.
Here’s the list of the seven fires at predominately black churches since the shooting:
1. College Hill Seventh Day Adventist in Tennessee on June 21
— Brandon Rook (@ROOK_WATE) June 23, 2015
The fire was reported on June 21 at the College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. According to WATE-TV, bales of hay and a church van were set on fire outside the church.
“Horror, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on?'” Pastor Cleveland Hobby III told WATE. The church property sustained minor damage.
The fire is believed to have been caused by arson, but the case is being investigated as vandalism, not as a hate crime, because officials there is usually an indication of why the victim was targeted left behind in hate crime cases, according to the news station.
The fire is being investigated by local police.
2. God’s Power Church of Christ in Georgia on June 23
A preliminary investigation has found that a fire in the sanctuary of God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, was intentionally set, police told the Macon Telegraph.
Local police are being assisted in the investigation by the ATF. Investigators searched the building after the June 23 fire and found what they believe to be the point of origin in the sanctuary. The fire spread through the roof, gutting the building, according to the Telegraph.
No services had been held at the church in recent weeks. The church has recently been burglarized, with sound and air conditioning equipment taken, the newspaper reported. The front door was wired shut and locked when firefighters arrived.
Sgt. Ben Gleaton told the newspaper there is no indication the fire was a hate crime.
“We are not seeing anything at this time that’s pointing us in that direction,” he said.
3. Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in North Carolina on June 24
The June 24 fire at Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, is being investigated as arson, the Charlotte Observer reports.
The predawn fire caused an estimated $150,000 in damage.
“Our investigators did not find any direct evidence that would lead them to believe at this time that this is a hate crime,” Charlotte Fire Department spokeswoman Cynthia Robbins Shah-Khan told the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog. “Of course, that is a possibility.”
4. Glover Grove Baptist Church in South Carolina on June 26
The Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina, burned down on June 26. The cause of the fire has not been determined. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said in a statement that investigators couldn’t eliminate accidental ignition sources to determine a cause and also didn’t find any criminal intent.
The fire started at about 3 a.m.
Church deacon Angilus Williams told WRDW he found it unlikely that the fire was caused by an electrical problem.
“It seems strange this time of the morning the church catch fire because the pastor, he’ a licensed electrician like I said we never had any electrical problems,” said Williams.
5. Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Florida on June 26
An electrical issue is believed to have caused a fire at the Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida, on June 26, though the investigation is ongoing, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
The church was a total loss, with $700,000 in estimated damage caused by the fire, Fire Department spokesman Captain Mike Bellamy told the Democrat. He said investigators found charring near exposed wires detached from the building.
6. Disciples of Christ Ministries in Mississippi on June 29
Electrical issues are also believed to be the cause of a fire at the Disciples of Christ Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 29. The fire was reported at about 6 a.m., according to WJTV.
The fire has been ruled an accident, the news station reports.
7. Mt Zion AME Church in South Carolina on June 30
The Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, about 55 miles from Charleston, burned down on June 30. The church was torched in 1995 by two men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, and then rebuilt, with President Bill Clinton giving a speech at its re-dedication.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though early indications are that it was caused by lightning, CNN reports.
The ATF and local authorities are investigating.