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Man accused of racially motivated attempt to burn down Fayetteville church

The man allegedly said he was going to "burn this sucker down" after asking if St. James in Fayetteville was a "Black church."

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A man was arrested Monday morning after allegedly asking if a Fayetteville church was a "Black church" and attempting to burn it down, according to police.

The Fayetteville Police Department's arrest report says officers responded to the church and found a "smoldering pile" in the parking lot and were told by witnesses the suspect was a white man wearing orange gloves with no shirt on.

The man was then seen by officers climbing the roof of the Circle K gas station that shared a parking lot with the church. Once he came down, he identified himself as 27-year-old Dillon McDonald to officers, according to the report.

The officer described McDonald as being "very hyperactive" and that he "spoke a lot and rapidly." He admitted that he had been drinking but that he hadn't taken any drugs. The report said McDonald's explanation for being on the roof was "odd"— that he was bundling cables for Circle K although he didn't work there.

McDonald admitted to lighting the fire in the parking lot of the church and "made statements regarding mental health but refused an ambulance."

The witness who called police told officers that McDonald had asked her if the church was a "black church." She said he was holding a fire blanket and told her he was going to burn "this sucker down" and approached the church with the fire blanket.

The blanket and items McDonald allegedly lit on fire belonged to the U-Haul business next to the church, who told police they witnessed McDonald light their mulch and shrub on fire, put the fire in the blanket "and left toward the church," the report states.

Officers went to the roof of Circle K and found hallucinogenic mushrooms in a plastic bag. McDonald was charged with terroristic threatening, criminal trespass, public intoxication, drug possession and open burning without a permit.

In a statement, Pastor Curtiss with St. James said the church hopes McDonald will face hate crime and child endangerment charges. There was armed security (FPD) during their Wednesday night services and will have security during their Sunday morning services.

"This is very personal for me and I want to reassure you that our church is and will always be a haven for all that enter our doors," Pastor Curtiss said.

Credit: 5NEWS

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