Man Pleads Guilty For Threatening To Burn Down Black Church In Virginia

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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A North Carolina man who threatened to burn down a black church in Virginia Beach pleaded guilty Wednesday.

John Malcolm Bareswill, 63, made the threats June 7, after one of the church’s leaders took part in a vigil for George Floyd, NBC News reported.

Bareswill pleaded guilty to issuing a “telephonic threat to use fire to kill, injure or intimidate any individual, or unlawfully to damage or destroy a building,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in a press release Wednesday.

“No one should be made to fear for their safety or the safety of their church for speaking out, and we will seek justices for victims of those who allegedly violate that right,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. Attorney for district, in a previous statement.

Bareswill was originally arrested on June 12. His is set to be sentenced on Nov. 12, and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, according to the press release.

On the morning of the threat, a church member told police that a person called and allegedly said “you [racial slur] need to shut up” before threatening to set the church on fire, according to NBC News. (RELATED: Texas Man Arrested For Racist YouTube Video Threatening To ‘Take Out At Least 200’ Black People)

Bareswill originally denied issuing the threat, but was arrested once investigators traced the call to his cell phone, even though he had used a two-number prefix to shield his number from caller ID, court documents said, according to NBC News.

Investigators also allegedly found records of internet searches including “who said all whites are racist,” and “who organized the protests from mount trashmore to town center,” said NBC News.

Mount Trashmore Park is where one of the church’s leaders held the vigil for Floyd, who died May 25 after Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

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