Pinellas deputies consider church fires 'suspicious'

Deputies say the fires were small
Posted at 9:17 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-07 18:33:56-05

SEMINOLE, Fla. — Pinellas County deputies are investigating after two Tampa Bay area churches were hit by vandals.

Deputies say there were 2 small fires and they consider both fires "suspicious."

The first incident happened at First United Methodist Church in Seminole. Deputies received a call around 7:50 a.m. on Sunday.

A suspect is seen on surveillance video walking in the area of Seminole Blvd. and 59th Ave. N in Seminole.




The suspect is described as a white male, about 20-30 years of age, with a thin to medium build. He has short hair, and was seen wearing a dark colored t-shirt, dark pants and dark shoes.

The second incident happened less than a mile away at Universal Harmony Church in Seminole. Deputies received a call around 8:20 a.m. on Sunday.

The Pastor of Universal Harmony Church says they just celebrated 60 years as a place of worship. She doesn't understand why anyone would want to harm the church.

"We were closed on Sunday because of it. It makes me upset, we have a bad person out there trying to destroy churches and I’m not happy with that," said Rev. Nancy Castillo.

Castillo says someone broke a window, lit an object on fire and threw it into the church. No one was hurt, but there is smoke damage.

"I'm very angry and I'm very frustrated, but what can I do about it except clean it up," added Rev. Castillo.

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Pastor Drew Dancy of First United Methodist says they considering ways to reach the community with love and their regular worship will resume on February 11.

Neighbors who live near the churches say they didn't hear anything unusual.

"Neighbors here are really good people. It's very unfortunate and kind of upsetting. It happened here and at another church," said Michel Mancuso, neighbor.

Pinellas County deputies are investigating. Deputies say the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives (ATF) are assisting with the investigation. The state fire marshal's office is also working with them.

Detectives are investigating whether the two incidents are related.