Authorities are accusing a Michigan LGBT rights leader of burning down his home after previously investigating the event as a hate crime, The Detroit News reported Tuesday.
The home of Nikki Joly, a transgender man and gay rights activist, in Jackson, Mich., burned down in 2017, killing five pets.
The fire was initially investigated by the FBI as a hate crime, given that Joly had received multiple threats after a year where he helped open the city’s first gay community center, organized the first gay festival and helped lead a battle for an ordinance that prohibits discrimination against gay people.
Joly had been named the citizen of the year by a local paper for those efforts.
However, authorities have now determined that Joly set the fire intentionally.
The motive is still in question, given that Joly did not own the house and would not receive an insurance payout for the damage.
A police investigative report suggests that Joly was driven by frustration over diminishing attention on gay rights activism in Jackson, according to The Detroit News.
St. Johns United Church of Christ workers Barbara Shelton and Bobby James said Joly was disappointed the Jackson Pride Parade and Festival had not been protested.
Shelton told Detroit News that she did not agree with the police's characterization of her comments.
“Not sure I said that,” she wrote in an email. “I have no idea about anything, never heard Nikki comment in any fashion about anything like that."
James declined to comment to Detroit News.
Joly's attorney, Daniel Barnett, said his client already had plenty of attention for his gay rights activism and was not looking for more.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “He was citizen of the year. There was plenty of media coverage already before the fire.”