The Los Angeles City Council on Friday, Sept. 8, approved a motion offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification, apprehension and conviction of individuals responsible for setting three wooden crosses on fire at the front lawn of a Sylmar church.
The council approved the motion in a 13-0 vote with council members Eunisses Hernandez and Heather Hutt absent during the vote.
Councilmember Monica Rodriguez introduced the motion to support the Los Angeles Police Department’s investigation into the crime that occurred on July 6.
The Los Angeles Fire Department initially responded at 5 a.m. to a report of a rubbish fire outside the Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church at 13901 Polk St. But when crews arrived, they found only the smoldering wood crosses, one of which had toppled over, according to the LAFD.
Fire officials said the crosses appeared to have been doused in lighter fluid and set on fire. No injuries were reported.
The crime prompted standard protocol for fire involving churches, the House of Worship Task Force was notified and began an investigation. That task force includes the Los Angeles police and fire departments, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI.
The LAPD reported that the burning of three crosses outside of the church was not believed to be connected to any other arson cases or hate crimes.
Los Angeles police previously stated LAFD arson investigators “confirmed an accelerant was used to commit the arson. Extensive investigative efforts were conducted at the scene following this incident and the investigation is ongoing. At this point, there is no indication that this arson hate crime is related to any arson or hate crime series.”
Anyone with additional information was asked to call Detective Allen at 213-486-6270, or during non-business hours, 877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anonymous tips can be made through Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477) or www.lacrimestoppers.org.
Church Pastor Pierre Howard previously told reporters he was not convinced the fire was a hate crime. He said it may have been done by someone who just made a bad decision.
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“It’s a multi-racial congregation that we have, so there should be no issue,” Howard said. “We have no issue. And I think it’s … someone at a bad moment in time made a bad decision. I hope that’s what it is.”
He added, however, “It’s a shame that people still want to do things like this.”
He said the church serves an array of different communities, including Latino and Black congregants and has never had any previous issues during its nearly 30 years of existence.
The church has video security, but Howard said the footage was not providing much help identifying suspects.