SYLMAR, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Three crosses were burned in an arson outside a Sylmar church in an incident that authorities were investigating as a possible hate crime.
Firefighters initially responded about 4:45 a.m. to a report of a rubbish fire at the Sylmar Christian Fellowship on Polk Street, just northeast of the 210 Freeway, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
"Upon arrival, firefighters found the flames to be out (and a garden hose on the ground nearby), and only smoldering wood remained," the agency said in a statement.
The crosses were part of the church property, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department said, and an unknown substance was used to ignite them. The flames did not spread beyond the crosses.
"It's a shame that people still want to do things like this," Pierre Howard, the church's pastor, said at a news conference, adding that the church had not received any threats. "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. I hope that's what it is."
In accordance with protocol, LAPD and Fire Department investigators were notified of the incident because it occurred at a house of worship.
Gary Bice, who lives near the scene, said he was disgusted by what had happened.
"Oh, this is no prank. When someone does this, this is full-blown racism," he said. "They know that this is a Black church.
"And these people, they give away food on certain weekends. They're great people. I don't know them personally but they are nice people."
The investigation was ongoing.