Police in Rock Hill, South Carolina say a 14-year-old boy set the fire at Catawba AME Zion, a predominantly black church in rural York county, off U.S. 21 near the Chester county line. Damages from the fire were discovered by church members as they were preparing for Sunday church service. Officials said that the pews were vandalized and that a Christian flag soaked in lighter fluid was burned resulting in more than $100,000 in damages. No one was injured. And although there is a lengthy history of attacks on black churches, police and prosecutors have indicated that they don’t feel that the arson was racially motivated.
Deputies said they discovered a video that showed the 14-year-old pouring lighter fluid and talking about the flames. Investigators also found a Zippo fuel canister with a relative’s name on it at the scene of the arson. The FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and York County deputies investigated the fire.
The juvenile has been charged with second-degree arson, malicious damage to a place of worship and burglary. According to Stacey Coleman, 16th Circuit Public Defender’s Office, the suspect suffers from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, has limited scholastic capabilities and other conditions. Judge Gene Morehead ordered that the defendant be tested for competency to stand trial on his charges and remain in juvenile detention. South Carolina law dictates that any conviction in Family Court, where the youth is charged, will only last until the age of 21.