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Man charged with setting fire to the historic Victory Baptist Church in South LA

CBS News Los Angeles: The Rundown (Sept. 20 AM Edition)
CBS News Los Angeles: The Rundown (Sept. 20 AM Edition) 02:03

Arson charges have been filed in connection with the fire that destroyed the historic Victory Baptist Church in South Los Angeles last week.

Carlos Francisco Diaz, 23, was arrested Sunday by the Los Angeles School Police Department and charged Tuesday with three counts of arson. He is being held on $225,000 bail.

Diaz is suspected of "willfully, unlawfully and maliciously" setting fire to the church on South McKinley Avenue, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

Fire destroyed Victory Baptist Church in Los Angeles, arson investigation under way.
Los Angeles, CA - September 12: The charred remains of Victory Baptist Church the day after a fire destroyed the historic church in Los Angeles on Monday, September 12, 2022. Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

"A church is a sanctuary, a place of worship, a place to heal and most of all a place to come together for the betterment of our community," Gascón said in a statement. "The fire at the historic Victory Baptist Church deeply wounded our community."

Victory Baptist Church was founded in 1943 in a storefront, moving to its current location on East 48th Street and McKinley Avenue the following year. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a guest speaker when Victory celebrated its 24th anniversary, and the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson once sang there.

The church burned early on Sept. 11, and three firefighters were injured when the building collapsed. The church's leaders and members have vowed to rebuild, and even though not much could be saved from the charred rubble, a piano and a pulpit was recovered and are still usable.

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