Review Category : National News

Suspect in Road Rage Killing of 3-Year-Old Boy Said Car Was Following Too Close

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — The Arkansas man accused of killing a three-year-old boy in an apparent road rage incident last week said he did so because he thought the driver of the Dodge Charger had been following him too closely, according to an affidavit released Friday following the suspect’s arrest.

Gary Holmes, 33, was arrested Thursday in the fatal Dec. 17 shooting of Acen King in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was booked late Thursday night on charges of capital murder and terroristic acts, records show.

Holmes, who is being held at a jail in Little Rock, was due in court Friday morning but failed to appear. The hearing carried on without him, and the judge ordered that Holmes be held without bond.

Little Rock mayor Mark Stodola told ABC News that Holmes was turned into authorities by his relatives Thursday night and was interviewed by detectives with the Little Rock Police Department. He has pleaded not guilty to all three counts, court records show.

Holmes is next scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 29.

According to the arrest affidavit from police, Acen was in the car with his infant sibling and his grandmother, Kim King-Macon, when he was gunned down. King-Macon told police she was on her way to meet up with her daughter at J.C. Penney when she saw a black Chevrolet Impala pull over on the other side of the street. King-Macon told police she drove past the car, which then pulled out and got behind her maroon Dodge Charger, according to the affidavit.

When she stopped at a stop sign, King-Macon told police she waited there for a minute. The driver of the Impala honked at her, so she honked back. King-Macon told police she then saw a black man exit the driver’s side of the Impala and she heard one gunshot. King-Macon told police she didn’t realize the man had fired at her car, so she turned left and the driver of the Impala turned right, according to the affidavit.

When she pulled into the nearby parking lot of J.C. Penney, King-Macon told police she went to get Acen out of the car and realized he was not responsive and had been shot. She called for help. Her other grandchild was unharmed, according to the affidavit.

Police responded to the incident around 4:20 p.m. local time. Acen was transported to Arkansas Children’s Hospital with a gunshot wound on his back. The child died from his injuries, police said.

Police found one spent 40-caliber shell casing in the street of the intersection at Mabelvale Cutoff and Warren Drive. Investigators also interviewed witnesses who said they heard horns honking and one gunshot, according to the affidavit.

On Thursday, detectives located and interviewed the owner of the Impala, whom police said is Holmes’ girlfriend. The woman told police she has known Holmes for more than 20 years and he was driving her car at the time of the incident. She told police she and another black man, whose name she said she did not know, were also in the car. She told police Holmes had a semi-automatic pistol in his lap that he had gotten from the other man in the car, according to the affidavit.

She told police that Holmes became upset at one point because he thought a Dodge Charger behind them was following too closely. She explained that Holmes pulled over on the side of the road and let the vehicle behind them pass, according to the affidavit.

Holmes’ girlfriend told police that a maroon Dodge Charger drove past them and pulled up to a stop sign where it sat for a few minutes. She told police that Holmes honked the horn for several seconds. He then opened the car door, stood up and fired one shot at the Charger, she told police. When he got back in the car, she told police that Holmes said, “That’s what you get for following me around,” according to the affidavit.

She told police they could not tell who was in the Charger at the time and did not realize anyone had been shot until the following day, according to the affidavit.

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Elementary School Crossing Guard Dresses Up as ‘Buddy the Elf’ to Bring Holiday Cheer to Kids

Tonktiti/iStock/Thinkstock(EVESHAM TOWNSHIP, N.J.) — Meet Kevin McGuigan, a crossing guard for J. Harold Van Zant Elementary School in Evesham Township, New Jersey.

McGuigan dressed up as beloved film character Buddy from the movie Elf on Thursday to surprise the school’s children and spread holiday cheer, according to ABC station WPVI in Philadelphia.

The tall “elf” put smiles on dozens’ of kids’ faces.

The kids and parents loved McGuigan’s act so much, he decided to remain in character for afternoon dismissal, too, WPVI reported.

An Evesham Police Department officer also ran into the “elf,” and posed for a picture with him.

“Well done crossing guard ‘Buddy the Elf,'” police wrote in a jolly Facebook post.

“If you like to smile and ‘Smiling is your Favorite’ then witnessing the smile this crossing guard is putting on children’s faces will surely put you in the holiday spirit,” police said.

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Life in Flint a Year Into the State of Emergency Over Tap Water

caristo/iStock/Thinkstock(FLINT, Mich.) — More than a year after unsafe lead levels in municipal drinking water led the mayor of Flint, Michigan, to declare a state of emergency, many residents are waiting for a return to normal.

“I think people are trying to get to a place of hope,” Kenyatta Dotson, a lifelong resident and county social worker said. “We’re trying to get to place where we see light at end of the tunnel.”

But, as 2016 comes to a close, community leaders and residents have said that the system, while somewhat better, is far from fixed.

Recent tests have continued to show lead levels in Flint water are lower than federal requirements, according to state officials. Residents are advised to continue using filters “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Even with filters, many residents have expressed fear and concern about the safety of the water. As long as the current lead pipes remain in place, many people in the community won’t feel safe to drink from the tap.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver started the FAST Start initiative to replace lead and galvanized steel pipes that lead from the street to individual homes earlier this year.

As of this month, they have replaced lines at 625 homes, the mayor’s office said in a statement, and their goal is to replace lines for about 1,000 homes in this phase. But, as many as 29,100 Flint residences have lead or galvanized steel water service lines that likely need replacement.

Residents remain guarded about if and when enough work will be completed to make their home tap water safe again.

“I think we’re just anxious for answers and for consistent answers and for resources so we can get the pipes fixed,” Dotson told ABC News. “To get back to a place of normalcy or at least have a timeline of when that might occur.”

Earlier this week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette made clear that the investigation into the water crisis has not ended. He charged four officials with multiple felonies, including conspiracy to commit false pretenses and false pretenses over their roles in the crisis. Each of those charges carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

“Flint deserves better. The people of Flint are not expendable,” he said in a press conference Tuesday announcing the charges. “People in positions of responsibility, who broke the law, must be held responsible.”

Elevated lead levels were found in Flint’s municipal water supply when it was drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, after disconnecting from Detroit’s municipal water system. The move was intended as a stopgap measure until the completion of a pipeline to Lake Huron as the source for Flint’s municipal water.

Lead from Flint’s old pipes was leaching into the water because of improper treatment of the water from the Flint River, which had a different mix of elements that were more corrosive. Though the city switched back to the Detroit water supply in October 2015, residents are advised to keep using filters out of an abundance of caution and officials are continuing to monitor lead levels at multiple sites in the system.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency on Dec. 14, 2015 and extended it indefinitely last month.

A CDC study published in July of this year found that after the water switch was made, children under the age of six were 46 percent more likely to have elevated lead levels in their blood than before.

Many people still plan their lives around finding clean water, Nayyirah Shariff, a resident of Flint and director community coalition Flint Rising said.

She uses filtered tap water to clean her dishes, but only bottled water to clean and cook food. Shariff is wary of using the standard tap water filters since common mistakes and using hot water can greatly diminish their effectiveness.

“You have the capability to inject human error,” Shariff said, explaining some people didn’t know they were supposed to change the filter once a month and it’s easy not to realize when a friend or child has run hot water through the filter.

“You’re basically playing Russian roulette,” she said.

Like many other people, Shariff said she also picks up packs of bottled water from state-run centers on her weekend time. She has changed the meals she cooks, giving up pasta for other items that use less water. Without reliable, clean tap water she doesn’t can in-season fruits as a hobby anymore.

Another common fear is bathing or showering with hot water. Cases of the bacterial infection Legionella increased during the water crisis. The bacteria can cause serious or even deadly infections if breathed in through hot steam.

“When I go out of town, I’m very happy to take a hot shower or a bath,” said Shariff, who said she hasn’t taken a hot shower in her own home in three years.

Community groups working with Flint Rising advocate the complete replacement of the city’s water pipes, for unpaid water bills to be forgiven, for residents to receive a refund for the months when the water was not drinkable and for health and education services to be provided to the affected community.

“In my opinion, I’m happy it got international attention,” Shariff said about the Flint water crisis.

But since time has passed, “People erroneously make the assumption that things are fixed.”

Government leaders from the state of Michigan and the city of Flint, as well as community organizations have taken steps to protect the community. Currently 13 people have been charged by the state attorney general over their role in the water crisis.

After the water was deemed dangerous in 2015, the city tapped into the Detroit water supply. It will be switched to Lake Huron water when the pipeline is completed. The water treatment plant now uses anti-corrosive chemicals to help diminish the chance that lead will end up in the water.

A Pediatric Public Health Initiative was created in January to help give kids exposed to lead access to medical and nutritional help. Among the projects, families with children can receive waivers to pick up healthy food at local markets. Flint residents can also apply for credit for discounted water bills through the Water Credit Refund program.

Marc Edwards, professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech and head of the team that first sounded the alarm of lead levels in Flint, said he has been heartened by progress. But, much more is needed.

Overall, water quality has improved tremendously, but the stubborn problem is the remaining old pipes. Edwards said health officials may never really be able to give the all clear while the chemically dangerous infrastructure is still in use.

“Basically we’re not going to fool ourselves anymore,” he said.

“Drinking water through a 30 foot long lead straw?” Edwards said. “It’s a hazardous activity.”

But the city must remain vigilant. Small pieces of rust or particles can end up in the water even if it is well treated, he explained. As a result, a single site can test for safe water “10 or 20 or 30 times” and test positive for a high level of lead later.

“It’s the same dose as if your kid ate eight or 10 paint chips,” Edwards explained. “The one unlucky glass of water to cause health harm.”

Filters have worked very well in their experiments and often last longer than their expiration dates, he said.

The legacy of Flint may be drawing attention to how much harm decaying and outdated infrastructure can cause — and how water safety laws need to be better enforced.

“We have laws,” Edwards said. “If the laws were followed none of this would have happened.”

Doctors are also hopeful that the attention surrounding Flint will ultimately help other communities, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician whose research showed children in Flint with elevated lead levels, told ABC News.

“It led to recognition that lead in water is problem in other communities,” Hanna-Attisha said in an interview last month. “I want to prevent future Flints and [protect] future children from being exposed.”

An initiative to diagnose and help children who have developmental delays after lead exposure is in progress. Hanna-Attisha along with others at the Hurley Medical Center are working with Michigan State University and the Genesee County Health Department as part of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, which started in January.

Though Hanna-Attisha is excited about the progress the program has made in getting children access to healthier foods and other medical attention, she acknowledged residents remain traumatized and angry about the situation and the danger to their children.

“This trauma is so raw,” Hanna-Attisha said. “The people in Flint just want to be regular normal people.”

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After a Bloody Week Overseas, Feds Urge US Law Enforcement to Remain Vigilant

Ben185/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Federal authorities are urging authorities around the country “to remain vigilant for indications of nefarious operational planning this holiday season” after ISIS-affiliated groups have called for attacks on churches across America and elsewhere.

In a joint intelligence bulletin issued Friday to federal, state and local law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and National Counterterrorism Center say they want to “remind security planners and first responders” to be on guard.

Just days ago, members of a pro-ISIS group posted a link online to a list of U.S. churches, including their names and addresses. The group “aspirationally called on its supporters to attack them during the holiday season,” noted Friday’s bulletin, obtained by ABC News.

“We assess this list may have been published to encourage attacks by homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) or as a means to intimidate or incite fear, but is likely not indicative of a specific, credible threat,” the bulletin said.

The bulletin emphasized, however, that while ISIS and its supporters have repeatedly released lists of potential targets online, including names of U.S. military members and government workers, “the release of these lists have rarely inspired HVEs to conduct plotting — none of which resulted in a successful attack.”

Nevertheless, the bulletin said authorities believe “HVEs pose the most likely near-term threat to the homeland, probably by conducting small-scale and opportunistic attacks against civilian targets using small arms or weapons of opportunity, such as knives or vehicles.”

The bulletin comes just two days after a Tunisian man plowed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 and injuring dozens more. The incident launched a global manhunt for 24-year-old Anis Amri, who was killed Friday in Italy after a shootout with police.

In a video released over social media and apparently recorded before Monday’s attack, Amri pledged his allegiance to ISIS, saying he was avenging the bombing of Muslims. He urged others to launch their own attacks.

Early last week, a man launched a suicide attack on a Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, Egypt, and just Thursday Australian authorities announced they had foiled a “multi-tactic plot in Melbourne, Australia, planned for Christmas Day against St. Paul’s Cathedral and other prominent locations,” according to Friday’s bulletin from U.S. authorities.

Such incidents “underscore the need for heightened vigilance through the holiday season,” the bulletin added.

In addition to targeting churches, the ISIS-affiliated group’s posting earlier this week called for “aspirational attacks” on hotels, coffee shops, streets, markets, and other public places in the United States, Canada, France, and the Netherlands, according to the bulletin, which was first reported by CNN.

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Suspected Package Thieves Caught on Camera

Photodisc/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Authorities in Chicago are searching for an alleged serial package thief who was caught on surveillance video last week grabbing a package from a Chicago man’s front porch.

The suspect quickly opened the package and took off with its contents.

“He didn’t care about anything, just walking around, pretending like he’s talking on his cellphone,” the home’s resident, Marc Serwatka, told ABC Chicago station WLS-TV. “I hope they catch you.”

Chicago police have reported more than a dozen instances of package thefts this month in the city. And the number of thefts could be even higher.

“We think a lot of people aren’t making reports,” Chicago Police Commander Bill Looney told ABC News.

In Florida, an alleged package thief approached a home disguised as a pizza delivery man and allegedly combed through the packages, discarding the items he did not want.

Another incident caught on camera in Florida included a female suspect allegedly lifting packages dropped off at a Miami-Dade County, Florida, home. When one package did not fit in the car, a second car arrived.

“Five minutes after she leaves, a gentleman comes up, parks next door and then he helps himself to our packages,” homeowner Kathy Fernandez told local ABC affiliate WPLG-TV.

In Maryland, police were able to track down 14 suspects involved in stealing at least 42 packages. Authorities returned the recovered goods to their owners.

“Really none of this would have been possible without somebody seeing what happened and actually calling the police to let us know what occurred,” said Montgomery County Police Commander Dave Gillespie, according to local ABC station WJLA-TV.

Tips for homeowners to avoid package theft include scheduling package deliveries for a window of time when you know you will be home; having your packages delivered to your workplace; and requiring a signature at delivery.

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Where to Find a White Christmas This Year

ABC News(NEW YORK) — If you are dreaming of a White Christmas, it’s time to head West.

The U.S. cities that could see flakes fall on Dec. 25 are located mainly in the West and the Plains, where a major winter storm could even bring blizzard conditions to some areas.

Here are the 10 cities most likely to see snow fall on Christmas, and their forecasted amount of snow:

  • Salt Lake City, Utah: 5-10”
  • Flagstaff, Arizona: 8-14”
  • Aspen, Colorado: 1-3”
  • Cheyenne, Wyoming: 1”
  • Casper, Wyoming: 2-4”
  • Billings, Montana: 2-4”
  • Rapid City, South Dakota: 2-5”
  • Bismarck, North Dakota: 6-10”
  • Fargo, North Dakota: 6-10”
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: 1”

People from the Midwest to the East Coast will have no need for snowsuits after experiencing a cold snap earlier this month that is now giving way to above-normal temperatures for Christmas Day. It will be so warm in parts that any snow on the ground will already be melted.

ABC News meteorologists expect temperatures to be 10 to 15 degrees above normal from Chicago to Nashville to Boston.

Even the North Pole is expected to experience temperatures 50 degrees above normal as Christmas nears. A storm near Iceland that is producing 45-foot high waves will push mild air into the Arctic region, causing temperatures to reach 32 degrees, according to ABC News meteorologists.

The most unlikely place that has already seen snow this Christmas season is the town of Ain Sefra in the Sahara Desert. A snow storm dusted the dunes near the desert town this week for the first time in more than 30 years.

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Suspect in Road Rage Killing of Three-Year-Old Boy Charged With Capital Murder

iStock/Thinkstock(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — Police have arrested and charged a suspect in connection with last Saturday’s road rage killing of three-year-old Acen King in Little Rock, Arkansas, officials confirmed to ABC News.

The suspect, 33-year-old Gary Holmes, was arrested for the shooting and is being held at the Pulaski County Detention Center in Little Rock.

Holmes was booked late Thursday night on charges of terroristic acts and capital murder, records show.

Little Rock mayor Mark Stodola said the suspect was turned in by his relatives to authorities Thursday evening and was interviewed by Little Rock Police detectives.

Terrance Long, the pastor of the boy’s family, tells ABC News that the family was told by police that a suspect was taken into custody.

The toddler was out on a shopping trip with his grandmother, Kim King-Macon, when he was gunned down. His infant sibling was also in the vehicle at the time, but he was unharmed, as was King-Macon.

Little Rock Police had said King-Macon told officials that a man in an older black Chevrolet Impala opened fire on her car at a stop sign after becoming agitated that she was not driving fast enough.

King-Macon said she did not realize her grandson had been hit until she pulled into a nearby shopping mall’s parking lot, where she called police.

Acen was transported to Arkansas Children’s Hospital where he died.

Little Rock Police tweeted on Saturday, “Tonight’s homicide was a road rage incident, the grandma and three-year-old victim are innocent and have no relationship [with] the suspect.”

Local and federal authorities had offered a combined $40,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.

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US Muslims Concerned That ‘Few False Reports’ of Hate Crimes Will ‘Unfairly Discredit’ Real Ones

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After two reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes were determined to be fake by authorities this month, the Muslim community is concerned that these “few false reports” are going to “unfairly discredit and delegitimize the dozens of real anti-Muslim hate crimes and instances Islamophobia out there,” according to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

“The way our community is treated in the media is unfortunately very monolithic,” MPAC spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmed told ABC News Thursday. “When one person acts out — whether it’s making a false report or some other type of bad behavior — it’s often looked upon as if the whole community is responsible for it, and it’s saddening.”

One recent false report was made in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where a woman fabricated a hate crime incident in November, city police announced on Wednesday.

The woman, whom police are not naming at this time, alleged at the time that a man approached her near the University of Michigan campus and threatened to set her on fire if she did not remove her hijab, according to a spokesman for the Ann Arbor Police Department.

After poring over multiple surveillance videos, and after interviewing multiple witnesses, investigators determined “the incident in question did not occur,” the police department spokesman told ABC News today. He added that the results of the investigation have been forwarded to the county’s prosecutor’s office, which will determine whether the woman will face charges.

In a separate case in New York City, police arrested an 18-year-old woman named Yasmin Seweid on charges of filing a false report and obstructing governmental administration, according to ABC’s New York station WABC.

The NYPD said last week that Seweid falsely claimed that three men taunted her aboard a subway train on Dec. 1, yelling “Donald Trump” and calling her a “terrorist.” The NYPD added that Seweid also falsely claimed that the men tried to take off her hijab and told her to “Get that f—— thing off your head!”

Seweid may have made up the story to get attention because of family issues at home, according to the NYPD.

Seweid’s attorney, Benjamin Jon West, could not immediately be reached for comment on the case, nor the Manhattan Criminal Court for additional information, including if Seweid has entered a plea to the charges.

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told ABC News that he believes the false reports are “statistically inevitable when you have such a large pool of reports.”

“I think these cases are a function of the tremendous spike in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in recent weeks, particularly after the November election,” Hooper said. “As with any type of reporting, a certain small percentage of them are going to turn out to be false.”

Hooper added that he was concerned about how such reports are used against the Muslim-American community at large, which has been hurting and experiencing tremendous levels of fear, especially after the presidential election.

“These false reports unfortunately give ammunition to the industry of Islamophobes who promote the demonization and dehumanization of Islamic Muslims,” he said. “But one or two false reports should not take away from the credibility of dozens of other real ones.”

Hooper also told ABC News that the Muslim community “is under great psychological stress and tension right now, and that that in itself can cause mental health issues that lead to these types of incidents.”

Ahmed echoed Hooper, saying that “we have youth going through a variety of issues” and “the community isn’t immune to all the societal pressures out there that could lead someone to not tell the truth, exaggerate or report a false crime.”

“We, as a community, need to do our best to try and make sure our people are supported and that we’re verifying claims before they’re shared,” she said. “But at the same time, we really are facing an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment and hate crimes, and we need to shed a light on these issues and challenges.”

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FDNY: 24 Injured, Including Four Firefighters, in New York City High-Rise Fire

MattGush/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A four-alarm fire broke out at high-rise on Manhattan’s Upper West Side late Thursday afternoon that left 24 people injured, including four firefighters, the FDNY said.

Of the 20 civilian injuries, 14 were minor and six were serious, according to the FDNY. The injuries the firefighters sustained were minor.

#FDNY COD Leonard updates media on 4-alarm fire at 515 W 59 St. 24 injures reported: 14 minor, 6 serious to civilian and 4 minor to FFers pic.twitter.com/kG5UHUF7Ib

— FDNY (@FDNY) December 23, 2016

#FDNY FFers at 4-alarm fire continue to conduct searches throughout building at 515 W 59 St for residents in need of medical assistance pic.twitter.com/Ep0vpqCYZN

— FDNY (@FDNY) December 22, 2016

The FDNY said the fire started in a third-floor apartment, and spread heavy smoke to higher floors, reported WABC-TV.

The blaze began at the 33-story, 465-unit apartment building on 59th Street at 5 p.m. and was extinguished just before 7 p.m.

#BREAKING: Firefighters responding to fire in high rise building on Manhattan’s Upper West Sidehttps://t.co/Q4ydHh48Ws pic.twitter.com/skcxC0q1IZ

— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) December 22, 2016

Heavy winds hampered the firefighting efforts, WABC-TV reported, adding that fire officials said nine people were removed safely from the roof.

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Miss. Church Fire Not Politically Motivated, Police Say

shiyali/iStock/Thinkstock(GREENEVILLE, Miss.) — Bond was set Thursday for a man accused of torching a Mississippi church where the words “Vote Trump” were spray-painted, but authorities say the motive for the arson does not appear to be political.

Andrew McClinton, 45, was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the November 1 blaze that destroyed the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi. He was charged with first-degree arson of a place of worship, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety said.

Greenville Police Chief Delando Wilson told ABC News that the fire does not appear to be politically motivated. “The investigation is leaning towards the motive that we are still investigating,” he said, which “doesn’t appear to have anything to do with politics.”

Wilson said he expects the case will be ongoing “for a while.”

McClinton appeared before a judge on Thursday morning, and bond was set at $250,000, Wilson said. McClinton did not enter a plea and did not have an attorney, Wilson said.

Last month, first responders discovered the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church “engulfed in flames” with “the words ‘Vote Trump’ spray-painted on the side” of the building, the Greenville Fire Department said. The blaze prompted a hate crimes investigation.

Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church is an African-American church. McClinton is also African American.

At one point McClinton was a member of the church, Wilson said. The current status of McClinton’s membership is not clear, he added.

Greenville mayor Errick Simmons told ABC News that he considers the fire a “direct assault” on the right to worship. He said the blaze “totally destroyed” the church.

Simmons said the Greenville community is still in the process of healing, adding, “We won’t rest until this person is prosecuted.”

According to Wilson, authorities are not releasing additional details about the investigation to ensure they “have an airtight case” so “we can prosecute this person and win in court to provide justice for our community.”

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