Six black churches have been torched in the St. Louis area since Oct. 8 and police say they don't have a suspect—or a motive. "We believe that this fire-setting activity is meant to send a message," the St. Louis Police and Fire departments and the ATF said in a joint statement, per CNN. St. Louis Fire Capt. Garon Mosby tells the AP that the possibility of a hate crime—for religious reasons, racial reasons, or both—is "part of the dynamic" of the investigation. Investigators say that the blazes all took place within a few miles of each other and in each case, an exterior door was set on fire. Nobody has been injured, though one church was almost completely destroyed.
Church leaders say that they're focusing on togetherness and forgiveness. "This is a spiritually sick person," the Rev. David Triggs tells the AP. "This is a sin issue. It's not a race issue." After Triggs' house of worship, the New Life Missionary Baptist Church, was set on fire on Saturday, parishioners gathered for a service on its front lawn the next day, Fox 2 reports. The ATF and the St. Louis Regional CrimeStoppers are offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arsonist, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (In South Carolina, a church burned by the KKK in 1995 went up in flames again in July.)