By Jackie Hampton,
Authorities have arrested a suspect in connection with seven fires that were set in West Jackson November 8. Each fire was set in close proximity to Jackson State University, two of which are predominately black churches.
Greater Bethlehem Temple Church, located at 1505 Robinson Road, was one of the churches set afire. The pastor is Rev. Robert Fortson.
Epiphany Lutheran Church located at 1230 Isiah Montgomery Street was destroyed. Rev. Raymond Gage is pastor of the 85-year old church. He was seen sitting outside the church with other members as fire fighters fought the blaze.
After a search that lasted several hours, the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday afternoon that they had arrested 23 year old Devin McLaurin in connection with the arsons.
Just hours prior to setting the structures on fire, McLaurin was caught on surveillance video trying several times to kick in a glass door at College Hill Baptist Church. When unable to kick the door in, he was seen walking across the street picking up a brick and throwing it into the glass door.
Church secretary Denise Griffin-Whittington stated that the suspect never entered the church, possibly because the hole in the glass door too small for him to climb through without being cut-up. She said, “The damage he caused College Hill was just over $2000 which is nothing when you consider the huge loss at Epiphany and damage at Greater Bethlehem Temple.”
Other locations where fires were reported to have been set include a fence on the JSU baseball field; a structure at Central and Dalton Streets; a house on Pascagoula Street; a gas station on Terry Road; and a structure at Terry Road and Cherry Streets.
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