Investigators release suspect video, seek tips about arsonist ta - KPTV - FOX 12

Investigators release suspect video, seek tips about arsonist targeting Vancouver churches

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VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

More than a year after an arsonist burned Vancouver-area churches, investigators released surveillance video of the suspect Thursday in an effort to spark new tips.

Clark County fire and law enforcement officials were joined by representatives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as they offered an update on the case.

The officials said the Church Arsonist Task Force had exhausted all leads but hoped the newly released images will help identify the suspect they’ve been trying to find since May of last year.

Investigators said the best footage shows an adult man approaching a facility in Brush Prairie on May 29 carrying something large in one of his hands.

The building now belongs to Daybreak Youth Services, a nonprofit that helps teens with addiction, but it used to be a church.

The video then shows him go out of the frame, and shortly after there’s a huge burst of fire and the suspect can be seen running away.

Clark County Assistant Fire Marshal Curtis Eavenson said a baseball hat believed to belong to the suspect was also found left behind, and investigators were able to pull DNA evidence from it.

Authorities believe the same man is responsible for two church fires in Vancouver that happened just a few days prior to when he was caught on surveillance in Brush Prairie.

The First Congregational Church of Christ was the first church targeted in the string of crimes. The building suffered about $2 million in damage and forced the church to completely rebuild a unique and intricate roof that still isn’t finished.

The day after there was another fire are the Liberty Bible Church of the Nazarene.

Eavenson said evidence found at all three facilities assured investigators that the crimes were related, although he declined to say what that evidence was. Investigators also would not say how the suspect started the fire.

A $20,000 reward is now being offered for any information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Ken Row, a leader of the First Congregational Church, told FOX 12 Thursday he is hopeful the push for new tips will help bring resolution to this case.

“If it opens another door for somebody to recognize somebody, then it’s all to everybody’s benefit,” Rowe said. “We want this to get resolved, just the satisfaction of knowing somebody’s been caught, but as a church, we’ve kind of moved on – more concerned now with the rebuilding.”

Rowe said the church plans on opening its doors for worship sometime next year. The church’s pastor said in a statement that church members continue to pray for the suspect and are thankful for the work of investigators.

We are grateful for the diligence and hard work of the members of the investigative team, as they move closer to finding a suspect in the fire that devastated our building 18 months ago. Our prayers continue for the arsonists, that they will find the peace and healing we know they so desperately need. Whatever their intent, the fire they started has not halted our prayerful service on behalf of Clark County. Even as we have been scattered around the city of Vancouver, gathering in a variety of locations for worship and meetings, this event has only strengthened our resolve to be a community of healing, forgiveness and justice.  We look forward with hope in returning to our rebuilt facility early in 2018.

Anyone with tips on these cases should contact the Clark County Sheriff’s Office at 1-877-274-6311 or the ATF Fires Tip Line at 1-888-274-6311.

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