US

Church Arson, Racist Graffiti Were Cover-Up For Theft By Black Employee, Say Feds

Authorities charged a black man with arson Monday after he spray-painted “KKK” on church property and set an office chair ablaze to throw off investigators.

Documents filed in Federal court Monday allege that Nathaniel D. Nelson, an employee of the majority black Concord Fortress of Hope Church in Kansas City, Mo., defaced the church with racist graffiti, including a racial slur against black people, and set fire to a chair inside a church office Sunday to conceal his initial crime of stealing money from the church to buy crack cocaine, according to The Kansas City Star. Nelson worked as a maintenance man for the church, and allegedly broke into a vending machine and the church financial office, according to KSHB-TV.

“An attack on a church and an attack on a congregation is really an attack on everyone,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigator John Ham told KSHB-TV.

The ATF determined the graffiti and the arson did not constitute a hate crime and initially offered a $5,000 reward to the public for information about the perpetrator. An official with the Kansas City Police and member of the church identified Nelson on video recorded by a church surveillance system.

Nelson allegedly disconnected one surveillance system in the church but was unaware there was a second one. The affidavit filed in court also alleged Nelson confessed to the crimes of breaking and entering and theft. He meant to divert the attention of investigators with the arson and graffiti, the ATF investigators determined.

Nelson has prior convictions of second degree arson, burglary, theft, and forgery, among other financial crimes, according to the local newspaper. A federal judge ordered Monday that Nelson be kept in custody.

A detention hearing will be held later in the week.

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