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Church burns after vandals strike
JASPER COUNTY-By: Leslie Rangel
Federal investigators are working tonight to determine if there is a link between vandalism that damaged a church and a fire that burned through the building.
Someone called the Jasper County Sheriff's Office shortly before four Monday morning to report smoke coming from the Northwest Buna Church of Christ off highway 96, North of Buna.
Investigators are trying to determine if the vandals set the fire or if it broke out accidentally while they were damaging the church.
Members of the congregation vow the damage won't shake their faith.
From the outside you can't see much of the damage, but inside the Northwest Buna Church of Christ, it's a different story.
"I got a text message about 5:50 this morning, my cousin is in the fire department, he said the church had caught fire and it had been vandalized," Joey carrell, a church member says.
Carrell sings in the church, he's been a member for 25 years and says it has always been peaceful here.
"This has never happened to us, we've never had anything like this, this is the first time we've had any problems in any way," Carrell said.
Even Jasper County Sheriff Mitchel Newman was surprised to see what the vandals had done.
"They turned every pew in the church over, they even turned some pages out of hymn books," Newman says.
The back of the building shows an air conditioner unit the vandals flipped over.
Investigators are still trying to figure out why anyone would have wanted to do this.
"Church is a place to worship, not to go tear up," Newman said.
"We can't find any clues or anythign to anybody that had any hard feelings, we think it's something random, some teenagers or random violence," Carrell said.
The crime struck this congregation during a revival, but these church members vow it won't bring them down.
"We're going to maintain and continue on, we'll always be here," Carrell says.
If you have information about the vandalism and fire, call the Jasper County Sheriff's Office.
JASPER COUNTY - Fox 4 has learned federal, local and state officers are investigating a fire that heavily damaged a church that was vandalized just before flames broke out.
Jasper County Sheriff Mitchel Newman tells Fox 4 someone called 911 at about 3:45 a.m. Monday to report smoke coming from a metal building that houses Northwest Buna Church of Christ off Highway 96.
First responders arrived at the church, about two miles north of Buna, to find flames burning the building.
Sheriff Newman says someone had vandalized the church and turned over all the pews. They also turned over air conditioning units. There was other damage as well.
The Sheriff says investigators believe the fire began in the church kitchen. It was either deliberate or started as a result of some of the vandalism, Newman said.
The Sheriff told us the church, which is in a large metal building, was heavily damaged but wasn't destroyed.
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating, as well as the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Jasper County Sheriff's Office.