Three wooden crosses outside a small Los Angeles church were found burned early Thursday, and authorities said it was being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Firefighters responded to a report of a fire shortly before 5 a.m. in the Sylmar area and found the flames were already out, leaving smoldering wood, Fire Department spokesperson Nicholas Prange said in a statement.
It was not clear whether the flames simply went out or were extinguished by someone. Prange noted that a garden hose was nearby.
One cross had either fallen over or been knocked down in a rock garden in front of Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church. The other two were scorched but remained upright.
Sylmar Christian pastor Pierre Howard, who is Black, said there had been no threats against the church, which he described as diverse.
“It’s a shame that people still want to do things like this in this day and age,” Howard told reporters outside the church in the northern San Fernando Valley, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of downtown.
“It’s a multiracial congregation that we have, so there should be no issue. We have no issue, and I think it’s just someone that in a bad moment in time made a bad decision — I hope that’s what it is,” he said.
Howard said the church has been in Sylmar for about 30 years and he became pastor when his father passed away.
“We have a diverse community,” he said. “We have Hispanic, we have Black, we have white, we have come as you are. We don’t really care. We see everyone. If you’re in the building, you’re in the building.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a social media post that it was investigating with the Fire Department, the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Limited information is available pertaining to the crime at this time however, the public can be assured that all investigative resources will be utilized to capture the person or persons responsible,” the post said.