Thursday, June 21, 2018

Church Fire Determined to be Arson

Area fire departments were called to the New Zion Baptist Church located on Highpoint-WeirRoad in
Winston County at around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. A smoldering fire located in the pastor's office of the church was quickly extinguished and an investigation began. It was discovered that a back window of the church had been pushed in, someone entered the building and set cushions and a pair of chairs on fire Within the pastor's office.

A church member who had come that morning to do clean up around the church found the fire and contacted 911. Winston County Sheriff Jason Pugh indicated that the Mississippi Fire Marshal's Office was contacted to assist local investigator, Keith Alexander. Representatives from the State Fire Marshal's Office and from ATF have been assisting in the investigation. Winston County CrimeStoppers has issued a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the individual responsible and the Fire Marshal and ATF are offering additional reward money. If you have information regarding this crime please contact the Winston County Sheriff's Office or Winston County Crime Stoppers at 662-773-9999.

Investigators indicate that the fire was set behind closed doors of the pastor's office and possibly smoldered for a period of time. Fortunately there was little fire damage but significant smoke damage to the church.

Pugh indicated that local fire departments were quick to respond including the Highpoint Fire Department, Shiloh and the Louisville Fire Department. "Our departments did a very professional job and responded quickly. This helped preserve evidence at the scene." 

Pugh indicated that they were following up on evidence and leads and that since the building itself did not burn there was a significant amount of evidence to be considered.