North Mpls. Church Target of Arson and Vandalism

Updated: 07/12/2013 6:50 PM By: Ellen Galles

A church that's been an anchor in North Minneapolis for 65 years is the target of arson and vandalism.  Investigators believe it may be connected to a string of eight other overnight arsons that happened on the north side along and around Glenwood Avenue.

They believe the suspect broke through a window, set fire to a piano in the sanctuary, and also spray-painted a racial slur across the back garage.

The pastor for Community Covenant Church says they believe what matters most wasn't destroyed in the flames.

"I've been telling our congregation they can't stop us.  We're going to continue to worship and be a positive force," said Pastor Luke Swanson.

If you have any information that could lead to a break in the case, call the arson hotline at 1-800-723-2020.

Unfortunately, investigators only have about a 15 percent chance of catching the person responsible.

The arsonist also targeted dumpsters, tree debris, and a wooden fence. Nine locations were lit up within one hour -- and one mile -- of each other.
Sgt. Sean McKenna is on the case. He said most fiery felonies fit into five categories. Motives include spite or revenge, crime concealment, insurance fraud, civil disorder, and -- the likely motive in this case -- vandalism.
"Somebody who's just bored, looking for something to do to stir up some excitement," McKenna said.
He said serial arsonists tend to be white males, 20 to 40 years old, with little education.
A typical fire setter is someone who is socially isolated and perhaps is acting out," McKenna said.
They also tend to light their fires within walking distance of where they live. But that doesn't make cracking cases easy.
Arson is one of the most difficult crimes to solve, as suspects tend to work alone and under cover of darkness.
The crime occurred at night, so you tend to have fewer witnesses," McKenna said.
Nationally, just one in ten arson cases is ever solved.
So many things that get touched, the possibility of fingerprints for example, go up in flames," McKenna said.
Mckenna said Minneapolis solves 12 to 15 percent of its cases. But the suspect in this case has not been identified, and may never surface again.
"The person who did it may not set another fire in their lifetime," McKenna said.
Arson incidents in Minneapolis are up 25 percent through the first six months of this year compared to last year.
McKenna said arson sprees are fairly uncommon in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis typically sees only one per summer.
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