What to Know
- A flaming bottle was thrown into First Central Baptist Church on Staten Island in an apparent attempt to set the building on fire
- The historic St. Paul's Episcopal Church a few blocks away was similarly targeted over the weekend
- The NYPD believes the fires are connected, and the hate crimes task force is investigating
Police are urging Staten Island church leaders to safeguard their houses of worship as they investigate fire-bombing attacks at two churches, now classified as hate crimes.
Police had stepped up patrols at Staten Island's 200 churches after the incident at St. Paul's, and NYPD officers Jimmy Ramirez and Michael Koniarski were stationed outside First Central Baptist Church when they saw flames coming from the awning.
Worried clergy members from across Staten Island met with the NYPD Friday. Father Demetrius Carolina of First Central Baptist Church said they wanted to "bridge the gap and as people of faith, come together in a meaningful fashion."
"We are saddened by the attack, but we are praying for the perpetrator," said Carolina.
No one was hurt but people in the community are finding it hard to comprehend the hatred.
"It was painful, very painful. I just can't understand," said Fr. Tom Devery of Our Lady Star of Sea.
Police have released surveillance video of the suspect.