community covenant church, arson, fire
MINNEAPOLIS - Fire investigators are looking for the person or persons who they believe set nine separate fires in a two-hour span Thursday night into Friday morning.
The main victim of the arsons was a church known for its "Everyone is Welcome" philosophy.
The Community Covenant Church on Humbolt Avenue is considered a neighborhood treasure.
"I do not think that there is any other church in the country that is as racially mixed and really connected to doing the things that we are doing in the community," said Rick Harrin, Church member.
Oddly, the church garage was vandalized by an obscene racial slur, which Pastor Luke Swanson painted over before dawn. Swanson consoled his congregation on the fire damage to the sanctuary and smoke and water damage to the entire building. A grand piano was a total loss.
"Music is so central to our faith," said Swanson. "We have a song to sing and for someone to vandalize our church like that, we certainly are sad and our faith also tells us to pray for those who persecute us."
Sgt. Sean McKenna said the arsonist or arsonists broke a window in the church to gain access.
"At this time, I do not know if there was any additional burglary. My guess is that this fire was simply, at this time, an act of vandalism," said McKenna.
McKenna believed that the nine fires are all related. There are no suspects at this time.
"One of the beliefs that the fires may be related is perhaps the setting of the fires to the south is an attempt to draw attention away from here (the church), maybe toss us off the track of the investigation," McKenna said.
The other fires targeted trees and debris, a vehicle, a fence and several dumpsters.
McKenna appealed to the public to call the Arson Hotline at 1-800-723-2020 with any information.
Swanson said the regular Sunday services will go on in the park next to the church or in the Lincoln Prep School if it rains.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)