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
A flaming bottle was thrown into a Staten Island church early Thursday in an apparent attempt to set the building on fire, police say, the second time in a week that a church in the Stapleton neighborhood has been targeted.
Minister Dale Smith at the First Central Baptist Church says someone threw a Molotov cocktail from outside the church, and he believes the person intended to smash through a side window and set the building on fire.
But it appeared the flaming bottle bounced off the window and landed on an awning a few feet away, incinerating it.
"This could have been a lot worse," said Smith. "We are very, very blessed that it was not."
No other parts of the building were damaged. A possible motive isn't clear, but police confirm the hate crimes task force is investigating. Smith said detectives told him they believe it is connected to a similar church attack just a few blocks away last weekend.
In that case, someone threw a Molotov cocktail through an open window at the historic St. Pauls Episcopal Church, but it fizzled out on the slate floor tile.
"Police believe there's a connection," said Smith. "That might be possibly what's going on, that people are targeting churches. That's very unfortunate, but we still pray for them and we're faithful."
The idea that someone appears to be targeting Staten Island churches has angered public advocate Letitia James.
"It is totally unacceptable and I am outraged," she said.
The church has about 1,000 members and is open seven days a week, according to the Staten Island Advance.