GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - After multiple fires were set inside a church building over the weekend, the pastor of the Spirit Filled Ambassadors for Christ Church in Andrews confirms the FBI and SLED are now investigating.
Pastor Deshawn Rouse says multiple fires were set to the church’s executive center around midnight Sunday morning.
He got the call around 4 a.m.
"When I got out here, SLED and the FBI were already on scene," Rouse says. "They were telling me they were waiting for me to get on scene so they could get consent to do an investigation on the building."
Rouse was told that, because the fire was at a church, it falls under a federal hate crime.
"When I was able to go in, they showed me where someone had lit all the tablecloths on fire," Rouse says. "On the other side of our executive building, there were some chairs and a couch they had lit as well which burned the wall and ceiling."
Rouse adds they had a company come in on the morning of Christmas Eve to do an assessment. The company claims everything inside is a total loss.
"Because of the plastic burning, it released a chemical so everything has to be gutted out," Rouse says. "We're not going to be able to save anything."
As of right now, Rouse isn't sure how much it's going to cost. And while he says donations are welcome, he's mainly asking for prayers.
"That's what we need right now," Rouse says. "Prayers for the congregation because they are really upset that someone would do this to us."
Rouse says officials told him they possibly have a suspect or suspects in regards to the fire, but they did not elaborate or provide any more details.
“Whoever did it, we are just praying,” Rouse says. “We forgive them. And we’re praying that the Lord fill the void that person is missing to do something like that to us. And also at the same time that the wheels of justice will turn.”
The church was supposed to have a service on Christmas Eve, but that has been cancelled. Services in the main sanctuary will be back to normal this coming Sunday.
Any events in the executive building, however, will have to be rethought.
"In a few weeks we were going to have a Law Enforcement Appreciation program and we were going to have a catered dinner for all of our law enforcement personnel," Rouse says. "We're going to have to figure out how we're going to do that now."
Rouse adds that all Sunday school classes and any rentals to the community will not be happening.