Police have arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of setting fire to Resurrection Catholic in Boyle Heights early Thursday morning as part of a series of recent arson and vandalism attacks at Southern California churches.
Christian Michael García was arrested on Thursday, just hours after the Resurrection blaze, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement released Saturday. The arrest was made by a group dubbed the House of Worship Task Force, made up of investigators from LAPD, the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Pasadena police and fire departments, along with other agencies.
García is also suspected of setting fire to the Church of the Angels, an Episcopalian house of worship in Pasadena, on January 13. Because of graffiti left at the Pasadena church, investigators believed it may be connected to a November 2016 vandalism attack an Assyrian church in the San Fernando Valley and similar incidents in three West Covina churches last February.
Charges against García will be known on Monday when the case is presented before the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Authorities said the blaze at Resurrection Church, at the corner of Opal and Lorena Streets, was contained to the first floor of the two-story, nearly 100-year-old structure. The fire was reported at 2:05 a.m. and took 62 firefighters to knock it down in 26 minutes, according to the LAFD. It started in the church’s vestibule and candle room, but firefighters prevented it from spreading to the main sanctuary.
Some statues outside the church were spray painted.
The fire and vandalism shocked parishioners at the Boyle Heights church, known for its activism and community involvement. Councilman José Huízar issued a statement Saturday morning after the arrest was announced.
“On behalf of the Boyle Heights community, I want to thank our LAFD Arson Unit and LAPD, along with Pasadena Police and Fire agencies and our other partners for their remarkable work and expediency in ensuring the person responsible for these and other heinous crimes will be held accountable,” he said in the statement. “Monsignor [John] Moretta and Resurrection Church have stood time and time again for Boyle Heights, and Boyle Heights will always stand for Resurrection Church. We applaud these investigators and we look forward to assisting Resurrection Church rebuild – knowing that the true spirit of this parish can never be destroyed.”