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Hate Crime Suspected in Burning of Crosses at Multiracial Sylmar Church

Staff

      On July 6, 2023 at approximately 4:40 a.m., the LAPD’s Major Crimes Division Investigative Sections and Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms House of Worship Task Force responded to Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church located in the 13900 block of Polk Street, to investigate the burning of three crosses on the front lawn of the facility.

      “It’s a shame that people still want to do things like this,” Pastor Pierre Howard told reporters. “It’s a multiracial congregation we have, so there should be no issue — we have no issue. I think it’s just, someone at that moment in time made a bad decision.”

      L.A. Fire Department’s Arson Investigators confirmed an accelerant was used to commit the arson and the investigation is ongoing in what is believed to be a hate crime.

      “Whether it’s determined to be a hate crime or not, what happened in Sylmar early yesterday morning – the burning of crosses on the lawn of a church – invokes a painful history of despicable acts used to terrorize Black people in this country for centuries,” Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in hate crimes across this country, especially when it comes to acts against African Americans – and it is possible that this incident is a part of that alarming trend. According to a report released by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations at the end of last year, Black Angelenos make up 9% of Los Angeles County residents, but made up 46% of racial crime victims in 2022. The report also found that anti-Black crimes jumped 30%.

      “Let me be clear,” she continued. “Anti-Black hate has no place in Los Angeles. I spoke with Pastor Pierre Howard yesterday to convey that we will be working with the Los Angeles Police Department to ensure that the individual or individuals responsible for this act are caught and held accountable. My thoughts are with the congregation of Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church as we continue to chart our path forward, together.”

      The flames did not spread beyond the crosses onto any other church property. The LAPD has distributed a community alert seeking assistance from anyone with information about the arson.

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