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Burned crosses at Sylmar Christian church prompt hate crime investigation

Burned crosses at Sylmar Christian church prompt hate crime investigation
Burned crosses at Sylmar Christian church prompt hate crime investigation 02:18

Authorities are investigating a possible hate crime at a Sylmar Christian church where outdoor wooden crosses were burned.

Three crosses were burned Thursday around 5 a.m. and one cross was knocked down as a team of investigators work at the Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church on Polk Street to determine if the burnings were hate-motivated.

LAPD and arson investigators at  Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church where burned crosses prompt a hate crime investigation KCAL News

"Because it's at a church, on church property, it's something that we always try to rule out. So we notify our House of Worship Task Force, which consists of the LAFD, LAPD, ATF and FBI," said Capt. Stephen Phillips of Los Angeles City Fire.

Fire officials say the three crosses appear to have been doused in lighter fluid and individually set on fire. The church itself was not harmed. 

The pastor of the church arrived to meet with investigators and said no threats have been made, and he said nothing has recently happened to explain the burnings.

"It's a shame people still want to do something like this," said Pastor Pierre Howard. 

"We have a diverse community. We have Hispanic, we have Black, we have white, we have come as you are, we don't really care...I think it's a hate crime of someone who hates God," said Howard.

LA Mayor Karen Bass released a statement about the incident Friday saying: Mayor Karen Bass today issued the following statement:

Whether it's determined to be a hate crime or not, what happened in Sylmar early yesterday morning - the burning of crosses on the lawn of a church - invokes a painful history of despicable acts used to terrorize Black people in this country for centuries. Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in hate crimes across this country, especially when it comes to acts against African Americans - and it is possible that this incident is a part of that alarming trend. According to a report released by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations at the end of last year, Black Angelenos make up 9% of Los Angeles County residents but made up 46% of racial crime victims in 2022. The report also found that anti-Black crimes jumped 30%. Let me be clear: anti-Black hate has no place in Los Angeles. I spoke with Pastor Pierre Howard yesterday to convey that we will be working with the Los Angeles Police Department to ensure that the individual or individuals responsible for this act are caught and held accountable. My thoughts are with the congregation of Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church as we continue to chart our path forward, together.

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