NASHVILLE (BP) — A Nashville man confessed to setting fires at four area churches, including two Southern Baptist congregations, authorities said Wednesday (June 26).
Crievewood Baptist Church and Priest Lake Community Baptist Church suffered minor damage in the arsons and burglaries committed within an hour of one another June 25 beginning at 11 p.m., the Nashville Fire Department said in a press release. The suspect, 26-year-old Alan Fox, admitted to setting fire to a file cabinet filled with papers a floor underneath the sanctuary at Crievewood Baptist, and starting a fire in a trash can positioned near curtains in the academy gym at Priest Lake Community church, Nashville Police told WKRN TV.
Priest Lake Community Baptist Church pastor Harold Frelix praised God that the flames caused only minimal damage.
“You could tell it was intended to catch onto the curtains that we have hanging in the gym,” Frelix told Baptist Press Thursday. “The fire went up the wall a little bit and it melted a hole in the floor. It was pretty intense, but it didn’t do much damage…. What it actually accomplished was minimal.
“So my congregation said, ‘Well, Satan walked in the door, but he was unable to do much,'” Frelix said. “That’s the way we’re dealing with it.” Between 300 and 400 people worship at his pastorate on Sundays, Frelix told BP.
Crievewood Baptist Church pastor Ray Miller also expressed gratitude that damage was not extensive.
“Let’s be grateful that the damage was not as bad as it could have been. Let’s be bold in proclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord in every situation,” Miller said in a June 26 Facebook post to his congregation of about 200 Sunday worshippers. “We do not know the why of this man or the why of our church.
“What I do know is that when hate screams loud, love sings louder,” Miller said. “I believe we will have the opportunity to extend God’s forgiveness to this man one day. Let’s prepare our hearts to do so.”
Fox also reportedly admitted to burglarizing and setting fires at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, a Catholic congregation, around 1:30 a.m. June 26, and at Crievewood United Methodist Church just before 4 a.m. on June 17.
All four churches are within a 10-mile area in South Nashville, where Fox lived in an apartment complex, but the churches represented denominational and ethnic diversity. Crievewood Baptist also hosts a Laotian mission, according to Southern Baptist Convention church profile data. Officials have announced no motive for the crimes.
The suspect gained entry to churches by breaking glass doors or windows, police said, and no injuries were reported. Fox reportedly had a gun when local, state and federal officials arrested him at his home. A tip to the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s arson hotline alerted investigators, the Nashville Fire Department said.
Fox is jailed on nine felony counts, including four counts of arson of a place of worship, four counts of burglary and one count of theft of property over $1,000, according to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. His bonds total $225,000, sheriff’s records show.
Surveillance cameras at St. Ignatius church reportedly captured footage of Fox entering the church and stealing televisions and other items before starting a fire. Priest Titus Augustine, who lives next door to the church, said he spotted Fox on church grounds and called police.
“I saw somebody come out through the door bringing stuff,” WKRN quoted Augustine. “It was scary, it was scary yeah. I told them (police) I’m not going out till I see the police car.”
Fox is scheduled to appear in Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County General Sessions court June 28 at 9:55 a.m., according to the court docket.