Federal agents offer $5,000 reward for church arsonists
Law enforcement agencies are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the Sept. 12 arson fire of the Waianae chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Damage to the facility's gymnasium, kitchen and offices at 85-574 Plantation Road has been estimated at $2.5 million. The chapel was not damaged, and no one was injured.
Anyone with information is asked to call (888) ATF-FIRE (283-3473). The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives is assisting the Honolulu Police Department in its investigation.
The ATF has been investigating all church fires since 1995, when a wave of hate crimes related to church fires swept the South, ATF Resident Agent-In-Charge Tracy Elder said.
In 1996, a federal law was enacted against church burning and desecration in which the maximum imprisonment was upped from 10 years to 20, Elder said.
Regarding the Waianae case, Elder said: "We have not uncovered any evidence to indicate it is a hate crime at this time ... Hate crime does not seem to be one of the things that happens around here," he said.
Unlike firearms cases where the suspect is often a prior felon, the ATF often relies on outside sources for leads in arson cases. Should the arsonists prove to be juveniles, it will be up to the U.S. Attorney's Office on whether to pursue federal prosecution, Elder said.