Church fire hotline set up, investigation continues - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Church fire hotline set up, investigation continues

Fellowship of Prairie Creek Lindale Fellowship of Prairie Creek Lindale

By Philippe Djegal - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The East Texas church arson investigation continues as federal, state and local law enforcement establish a command center in Tyler, sharing information that could lead to an arrest of the person or persons suspected of lighting six churches on fire.

Investigators say that they won't stop the search until the suspects are caught.

"It is our community," said Chief Neal Franklin, with the Tyler Fire Department. "We care deeply about this."

"We go to churches here," said Clay Alexander, an ATF agent. "We have friends that go to churches here."

"We're very serious about catching any perpetrator on this," said Franklin.

And, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, they might be a step closer to catching the suspected arsonist.

"We do have individuals," said Alexander. "We have vehicles. We have information that we are following."

Investigators say the best source of information is coming from the you - eyewitness accounts, along with raw video of the fires that KLTV handed over to them earlier this week.

"We have a team right now reviewing every minute of the footage to try to identify, you know, anything that looks suspicious and we're following up on them," said Alexander.

Police have stepped up patrols around churches, and the fire department will join officers on any calls relating to suspicious behavior reported near houses of worship.

"We had one burglar alarm, so far, that I know of," said Franklin. "It turned out to not be anything. It was actually just a weather change. But, we responded with our pumpers as well."

There is still no known motive for the church arsons and investigators still are not saying they are connected.

"Different types of motives can be anything from revenge, to excitement, to concealment of other crimes," said Paul Findley, a Tyler Fire Marshall.

The ATF says this investigation is a 24-7 operation. No one sleeps, until the suspect or suspects are caught.

"We're relentless in our pursuit to come to a positive conclusion in resolving this issue," said Michael Golson, with ATF's Dallas Field Division.

An official tip line had been established that will be manned 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The Church Arson Hotline numbers are: 903-939-6169 or 903-939-6172

The ATF is offering a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspected arsonist.

Prayer meetings are being held across East Texas:
Tyler at Bergfeld Park 1 p.m. Sunday
Lindale at Pool Park 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Athens at Trinity Valley Community College at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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