City offers big reward in church fires

PANORAMA CITY Church members have caught a rash of assaults in the San Fernando Valley.

Click in the Eyewitness News story window above to watch Leo Stallworth's report.

In the last several months arson investigators say that there have been three attacks on churches in the San Fernando Valley.

Last month arson detectives say that someone slammed a Molotov cocktail into the steeple of the Church of the Nazarene, in Panoroma City.

The steeple area erupted into flames. Fire crews were able to put the blaze out before wide spread damage was caused.

A few miles away there was a similar incident that occurred at another church in March. Investigators say that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Assembly of God Church. The fire burned the entry way to the building.

In February, there was another attack with a Molotov cocktail at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills.

So far authorities have no suspects or a clear motive in any of the attacks. They cannot say for sure if they are all related to one suspect or even a group.

Friday morning members of the L.A. City Council along with police and religious leaders held a news conference to condemn the attacks and offer a reward for information leading to an arrest or arrests.

"We need the community to get involved. We need you to understand, whether it is the bank of your conscience or whether it is the bank where you can take this reward and do something good with it, please come forward," said L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas.

"When somebody attacks the church, it's attacking the community. The church is here to help the community," said Pastor Hugo Aldana with the Church of the Nazarene.

"We individually and collectively have been injured by a hideous act," explains Rabbi Allen Freehling from the Human Relations Committee.

"I think it is a horrible crime against a spiritual body of God. I don't think any church should have to go through this. When you hit one you hit them all," said Pastor John Lett from the Greater Missionary Baptist Church.

"The only message I have would be for the perpetrator. 'You've got the ATF, LAPD, FBI, L.A. City Fire Arson unit coming after you.' Do the right thing make a call and give up at this point because we are going to get you," said John Torres from the ATF.

The Los Angeles City Council offered a $50,000 reward. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives each offered $10,000. Another $5,000 was contributed by the Greater Community Baptist Church.

Anyone with information was urged to contact the Los Angeles Fire Department's Arson Investigation Unit at (213) 485-6095.

CNS contributed to this report.


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