Story at a glance
- Investigators said there was a large explosion near the back of the building that blew out the front Wednesday.
- Authorities said they found graffiti in the parking lot that read “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”
- Authorities are offering a reward for information related to the arson.
A Mississippi church that filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs over coronavirus restrictions was destroyed by a suspected arson fire Wednesday morning, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Authorities from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office said they found graffiti in the parking lot of the First Pentecostal Church when they arrived on the scene that read, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”
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“We’ve kind of racked our brains and we have no idea,” Jerry Waldrop, the church’s pastor, said according to AP. “No enemies that we know of. We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”
Investigators said there was a large explosion near the back of the building that blew out the front, according to FOX 13.
“We do believe that based on the evidence and what we have seen at the scene and on top of the hill this was an arson,” Kelly McMillen, a Marshall County official, said according to FOX 13.
Waldrop filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs last month, claiming police officers disrupted a church Bible study and Easter service. City Attorney Shirley Byers said nearly 40 church members gathered inside the church and were not practicing social distancing when the church was issued a citation on April 10, according to the AP.
The pastor said parishioners had been practicing social distancing inside and only congregated indoors due to bad weather.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’s (R) statewide restrictions treated churches as essential services and allowed them to stay open, but city rules did not do the same. The city in late April amended the rules to allow for drive-thru church services, according to the AP.
The lawsuit has yet to be served.
Authorities are offering a reward for information related to the arson.
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