NYPD investigates Bronx church fire

December 9, 2009 9:42:06 PM PST
A small group came together to pray on Wednesday afternoon as they cope with the vandalism and messages of hate that destroyed the home of their church. "It's terrible for us. It's terrible," Cetthmra Machacote said.

The fire started at 4:00 Wednesday morning at the Glory of Christ Church at 2137 Ellis Avenue.

Jerry Singh says he and his wife saw flames shooting through the windows.

"It started on the whole first floor," he said.

It didn't take long for the flames to spread through the church despite the efforts of firefighters, one of whom suffered injuries.

Investigators were back at the church on Wednesday night and looking through a boarded up home across the street.

According to residents, it's a frequent hangout for a group of people who've been known to terrorize neighborhood residents.

"The neighbors have come to us and they've asked us to at least pray because they are afraid," said Rev. Raymond Talavera.

Now, investigators are trying to determine if that help may have had something to do with the fire that destroyed the sanctuary of the Glory Christ Church. Messages of hate were left behind.

According to the church's pastor, someone stacked chairs inside the church and with an accelerant set the fire.

When the smoke had cleared, satanic graffiti was visible along with something else.

"Some mention of gangs was on the walls and we don't know if it was to throw us off or actually gang activity," Talavera said.

Whoever is responsible wrote, "Get off our block."

But members of the congregation said they are not going anywhere.

"We will continue to minister to the community," said Hector Perez

Their pastor, Rev. Talavera, is also more committed than ever to staying.

"We never challenged them. We love them. We minister them and show them the love of god. They obviously took it another way, if it was indeed them," Talavera said.

Police said they are investigating the fire as a bias crime.