(Recasts with suspect being church member)
Dec 21 An man who was a member of a historic
black church in Mississippi that was burned and spray-painted
with the words "Vote Trump," has been arrested in the case,
authorities said on Wednesday.
The Greenville church was set ablaze a week before the Nov.
8 U.S. presidential election, leading officials initially to
view it as a politically motivated hate crime.
Andrew McClinton, 45, was charged with arson of a place of
worship for the fire at the Hopewell Baptist Church, said Warren
Strain, a spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public
McClinton, who is African-American, was a member of the
church, said Kenya Collins, a spokeswoman for the city of
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which is part of
the Public Safety Department, did not say what led authorities
to McClinton or speculate about his motive.
Mississippi State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney said in an
interview: "At this point we do not believe it was a politically
motivated crime though it appears there were attempts to make it
look politically motivated."
He said McClinton was still being interviewed on Wednesday
afternoon and that details about his motivation would likely
emerge soon. Chaney, who also serves as the state's insurance
commissioner, said the arson was not believed to be
Mississippi correctional officials said on Wednesday that
McClinton served eight years in state prison, from 2004 to 2012,
for armed robbery in Lee County in the eastern part of the
state. Greenville, where McClinton lived, is near the
Mississippi River about 85 miles north of Vicksburg.
Black churches in the U.S. South have long been a base of
support for the Democratic Party, so the attack and the language
supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump were taken as
During the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and
1960s, Southern black churches were often targets for arson and
bombings by white supremacists.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Editing
by Matthew Lewis and Peter Cooney)