Hate crime investigation launched after 3 crosses burn outside Sylmar church

It appears an accelerant was used to start the fire outside Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church, investigators say.

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Arson investigators responded to a Sylmar church Thursday morning following the discovery of three burned crosses on the property.

Video from NewsChopper4 showed one of three wooden crosses outside Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church on the ground. Authorities at the scene said it appears an accelerant was used to start the fire at about 5 a.m. outside the church in the 1300 block of Polk Street.

"Upon arrival, firefighters found the flames to be out (and a garden house on the ground nearby), and only smoldering wood remained," the LAFD said in a statement.

More details were not immediately available.

"It's a shame that people still want to do things like this in this day and age," said the Rev. Pierre Howard.

Howard said the church has security cameras, but it was not immediately clear whether the lighting of the fire was caught on video.

The House of Worship task force, including LAPD, ATF, and the FBI, will begin an investigation. As with any case involving a house of worship, the case is being investigated as a hate crime.


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Howard said there have been no threats to the church, which he said has been in the community for about 30 years with a diverse congregation.

"We have Hispanic, we have Black, we have white, we have come as you are," Howard said. "We don't really care. 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.

"We're going to put those three crosses back up. We're moving forward."

He has received an overwhelming number of calls expressing support for the church, Howard said.

The FBI said it is communicating with local law enforcement authorities at the scene to determine the facts. The ATF said it is agency protocol to respond to church fires, and that personnel are at the scene as part of the LA area church arson task force.

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