Update: Mt Zion AME Church Likely Caused By Lightning, Says Federal Investigators
Federal investigators discarded arson behind the burning of historic Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina on Tuesday night, according to Federal investigators who were at the scene Wednesday morning.
In a report from CNN, the FBI has been collaborating with the National Weather Service to resolve whether heavy storms were a contributory factor to the fire. CNN meteorologists issued a Forensics report showed lightning strikes in church premises at 7:18 p.m. ET on Tuesday. No accelerants were found in the scene.
Fifty firefighters, FBI, some local police and five agents of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved in the present investigation. The fire incident of Mount Zion AME Church sparked interests, as it is the sixth black church burnt down after 9 black Americans were killed inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a prayer service.
“Anytime there is a house of worship involved in a fire, ATF is automatically assigned to look into the cause,” Special Agent Tom Mangan said.
“This community has been through so much. We are weary. We are tired. It’s devastating to put the church and the community through the same thing. To see it back in flames in such a short span of time is hurtful to the entire community,” former State Representative Bakari Sellers told CNN.
Senior Bishop John Bryant from AME’s national headquarters described the church’s fire as something that “will not send us into despair or depression. As Christians, we are a people of resurrection and even from the ashes, we will arise.”
A Pillar of Black Community
In an article published by Atlanta Blackstar, the black churches, from the years of slavery up to the civil rights movements, represent “a pillar of the Black community, the center for leadership and institution building, education, social and political development and organizing to fight oppression. Strike at the Black church, and you strike at the heart of Black American life.”
But the series of black church burning down was not about hate crime, although arson was seen as the cause of fire at Briar Creek Road Church in North Carolina on June 24 and at College Hill Seventh-day Adventist in Tennessee on June 21. Nevertheless, no indication of hate as the motivating factor in these two cases was seen.