Church Fire Investigation

A destroyed piano is part of the charred remains of Briar Creek Road Baptist Church Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. Investigators with the Charlotte Fire Department say a fire at the predominantly black church is a case of arson. The church’s congregation is predominantly black, and there are about 100 members. Investigators are not sure if the fire was racially motivated. (Davie Hinshaw/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

On June 31, Mt. Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, S.C. became the sixth Black church to be burned in the South since the devastating, racially motivated church shooting 65 miles away in Charleston, according to CNN.

According to the FBI, it was lightning that caused this particular fire on the Mt. Zion AME Church.  Still, “it was another punch to the gut” to the community, former state Rep. Bakari Sellers told CNN.

“This community has been through so much,” he said. “We are weary…. We are tired.”

Members of the Ku Klux Klan burned down Mt. Zion 20 years ago, but it was rebuilt in 1996 when then-President Bill Clinton called for an end to racial terrorism.

Greeleyville Mayor Jesse Parker told NBC News, “We were saddened by what we saw out there.  To see the church in flames again, it gives you an ill feeling. We don’t know what happened.”

The FBI along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating all the fires, suspecting at least three are arson cases.  The other burned churches were:

  • Greater Miracle Apostolic in Tallahassee, Fla., which caught aflame when a tree limb fell on power lines;
  • Glover Grovery Baptist in Warrenville, S.C., where the cause has not been determined;
  • Briar Creek Road Church in Charlotte, N.C., which is being considered arson;
  • College Hill Seventh-day Adventist in Knoxville, Tenn., deemed a case of arson; and,
  • God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., which is also being listed as an arson.