UPDATED: Person of Interest in Church Arson

Officials say an early morning fire at Zoar United Methodist Church was purposely set, but sprinklers quickly doused flames.

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published February 24, 2012.)

Updated 3:30 p.m., February 24, 2012: Police have identified a person of interest in the early morning fire at Zoar United Methodist Church in Snellville. Investigators are asking for the public's help in identifying the man, described as a white male, approximately 18-26 years of age. A photo of him was taken at a nearby business just before the fire was reported. He was wearing torn blue jeans, a dark hooded jacket, and a striped shirt. If you think that you know the person in the photo or if you have any information that could be helpful, call 9-1-1 or the Gwinnett Fire Arson & Explosives Section at 678.518.4890.

Officials say a small fire early Friday morning in the gymnasium of a Snellville church has already been ruled an arson.

Evidence shows that someone forced entry into the back of Zoar United Methodist Church, and then intentionally set a fire in the kitchen area of the gymnasium, said Capt. Tommy Rutledge in a press release. 

Fire fighters arrived to the scene about 12:30 a.m. No one was there at the time, and there were no injuries, officials said.

Officials added that a properly working sprinkler system extinguished the flames quickly, preventing wide-spread damage.

"This is a prime example of the effectiveness of fire sprinklers inside buildings." Rutledge said in the release. "The small fire caused minimal smoke and water damage to the kitchen area."

In addition to the evidence of forced entry, fire investigators also said that there were signs of "slight vandalism" inside the gymnasium.

No additional specific information is being released at this time.

In 2011, Zoar United Methodist Church celebrated 200 years in the Snellville community. The church puts on a number of programs for the community, and its senior pastor there is the Rev. Kelly Brisendine.

Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to contact the Gwinnett Fire Arson & Explosives Section at 678.518.4890 or the Georgia Arson Hotline at 1.800.282.5804.

Georgia Arson Control Inc. offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for arson. If convicted, those responsible could spend up to 20 years in prison.

To make a donation to Zoar UMC, contact the church via its website.

andrea R February 24, 2012 at 08:14 PM
this is a very nice church and is very god about allowing local girl scouts to hold events there--this is a sad event
Kathy February 25, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Zoar Church has such a sweet spirit. The people there are so nice! I am saddened to hear someone vandalized this church or any church.
Joy L. Woodson February 25, 2012 at 09:40 PM
I know, it is sad. But, police have a person in custody now, so that's good.
melanie freeman February 28, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I as a grateful person, who attends support group meetings at the Zoar Methodist Church, I am very sorry that this has happened to such a loving and giving congregation of people and there property. They continuosly and generously are reaching out to the community with love and care. I am so dissapointed in this one mans actions and how these actions can affect many lives. Thanks to our Lord and Savior and to Zoar Church for having those sprinklers in place! This could have been a severe loss for the entire community. I dont understand how people can be so reckless and evil. May God have mercy on your soul. Thank you Lord for watching over this church and their livelyhood. Thank you Zoar Methodist Church for all you do to help all those in need and carrying on sharing God's Word and Love... I pray people flock to help restore all damages. A sincerely Anonymous Christian.


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