(GREELEYVILLE, S.C.) — The cause of a recent fire that burned down Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina has been classified as stemming from “natural” causes according to the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The finding comes amid a period of heightened alert about a series of recent church fires across the south and fears that they may be cases of arson. Two of those cases have been found to linked to natural causes and no links have yet been found between them.
It also comes in the wake of a racially motivated massacre in Charleston, SC that left 9 dead.
“Based upon the scene examination, the fire debris analysis, witness statements and a lightning strike report, the cause of the fire was best classified as natural,” SLED told ABC News Thursday in a statement. “Investigators observed no indicator of criminal intent. The investigation is complete.”
Mt. Zion AME Church was totally destroyed after the fire gutted the house of worship Tuesday night, local officials said. Only the walls of the church were left standing, they added.
The predominantly black church in South Carolina has a history of being targeted and was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995. President Clinton spoke at the dedication of the newly rebuilt church the next year.
Preliminary investigations into a series of five church fires in the south indicate that two of the fires were started by natural causes and one was the result of an electrical fire, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“If in fact there is evidence to support hate crime charges in any one of these cases, the FBI, in coordination with the ATF and local authorities, will work closely with the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to bring those forward,” Justice Department spokesperson Melanie Newman told ABC News in a statement.
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Recent posts in National News