/African American man arrested for Greenville church fire

African American man arrested for Greenville church fire

Greenville Police Department confirmed Wednesday the arrest of the suspect in the Greenville church fire. Andrew McClinton (45), of Leland, was charged with one count first-degree arson. Original plans by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation were to investigate the fire as hate crime. McClinton’s arrest, an African American who was a member the church, has muddled this story. Greenville Police Chief Delando Wilcox said that they are still investigating a motive for the arrest. McClinton was apprehended Wednesday afternoon by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Washington County Sheriff’s Department officers. He was located in Leland, which is a small community just outside of Greenville. Wilson stated that McClinton was a person of special interest since the beginning. Wilson stated that investigators were looking into someone on Nov. 2, the day following the fire. However, he did not provide any details. McClinton was the person that Wilson claimed to have been looking at. Wilson refused to discuss the circumstances that led to McClinton’s arrest, citing ongoing investigations, but said that McClinton is the only suspect currently. Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons quickly condemned the act. Simmons stated that it was a divisive act. Simmons stated that “this was a divisive act” and added, “There is no place for such heinous, divisive behavior within this community.” After the Greenville Fire Department found the words “Vote Trump,” spray-painted along the building’s sides, national attention focused on the Nov. 1 fire at Hopewell. Though spray-painting the name of a candidate is not a common way to be accused of hate speech or slander, there have been several white supremacist groups that support Donald Trump. Reports of racist acts committed in the name of the president-elect have been reported across the country in the wake his election. Simmons stated in November that “it has that connotation.” “Yes, there is an atmosphere in the country that has allowed people to get out of their closets and perform these cowardly acts,” Simmons said in November. Perhaps we are being infiltrated by crime from elsewhere. “I don’t believe we’d have people here who would engage in this, whether they’re black or white,” stated the Rev. Theautry Winters, November. “We have great people in Greenville.” Others said that they believed the fire was accidental and that the message was intended to cover for another type of crime. Polly Powell, who lives next to the church, stated that she didn’t call the fire department until after hearing the alarm. She assumed it was a burglary. She said that break-ins are common at the church. Powell stated that Powell believed it was meant to disorient them from the true trail the day following the fire. “I don’t believe it has anything to do with Trump,” Powell said. Although initial testing had indicated that someone had set the fire, the results of the state crime laboratory ruled this out in mid November, officials told Mississippi Today. Greenville Fire Chief Ruben brown said that investigators have no reason to believe the fire was accidental. Brown stated in an email the week following the fire that “fire can be started intentionally without a volatile substance like fuel or lighter fluids.” In a Facebook post Wednesday, Gov. Phil Bryant praised the arrest of the suspect in the case in a Facebook post Wednesday: “I appreciate and applaud the hard work, professionalism, and diligence of the Greenville fire and police departments, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the ATF in solving this terrible crime against people of faith.” Wilson also echoed the praises of the governor. Wilson stated, “I have been in law enforcement for a long time and it was great to see agencies working together even though it was a terrible crime.” “I know that the collaborative effort was what helped everyone solve the case.” Within a week of the fire, a GoFundMe fundraising campaign raised $257,467 for church repairs. According to Katherine Cichy (GoFundMe spokeswoman), the sum was made possible by more than 7,000 individual donations coming from all 50 states and 29 countries. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to GoFundMe today as part of the Spring Member Drive. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of all Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think.