Church arsons plague East Texas, many coping with uncertainty - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Church arsons plague East Texas, many coping with uncertainty

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The East Texas community is still coping with the uncertainty of knowing when and where the next church fire will happen. So far, there have been nine church arsons in East Texas since the beginning of the year.

"This is an environment that we're not used to dealing with," said Officer Don Martin with the Tyler Police Department.  "We're not used to people just burning churches down."

But some East Texans, like Andrew Murphey, find themselves making adjustments.  Murphey said he was driving down South Broadway, last week in Tyler, and passed a church.  He couldn't help but do a double-take.

Murphey said he has also been on the look-out for unique tattoos, like those depicted in the sketches of the persons of interest.

"Profiling, whatever you want to call it, if they look like the person that fits the description, that's going to give them away," said Murphey.

Tyler Fire Marshal Paul Findley said it's nice to know the community is being proactive. 

He said it didn't take long for the Tyler Fire Department to make changes to its protocols. 

He said if Tyler police receive a burglar alarm from a Tyler church, the fire department will dispatch a crew to the same location.  "That way we get one of our units rolling," just in case, Findley said.

Officer Don Martin, public information officer with the Tyler Police Department said members of his department normally pull over into parking lots, or onto side streets to work on their laptops and complete their reports.

"Now, they're going to go find the nearest church in that area," Martin said.

He said officers also get out of the cars and check doors. Martin added that too many churches have already been lost and the city does not want to lose more.

Authorities stressed that this is still an ongoing, 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week investigation.  

Findley said citizens should remain vigilant and continue to call in to the ATF tip lines with their information: 903.675.0061, or 903.675.0062, or 888-ATF-Fire.

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