Three Latter-day Saint meetinghouses catch fire in St. George, man in custody
ST. GEORGE, Utah — Police in St. George said a man is now in custody after three Latter-day Saint meetinghouses sustained fire damage early Tuesday.
St. George Police said the first call came into dispatchers around 4 a.m. about a fire at a meetinghouse at 1295 South and 3000 East near the newly announced Red Cliffs Utah Temple. It required a multi-agency response.
A short time later, crews received a call about landscaping was on fire at another Latter-day Saint meeting house nearby at River Road and Rustic Drive.
Officers then started checking nearby meetinghouses and found smoke coming from another church at 1762 South River Road. There, officers saw a silver minivan parked in the lot and a man exiting the building.
“A male exited the church and left the area in the minivan at a high rate of speed,” SGPD said in a news release. “Officers attempted to stop the vehicle. The driver fled from officers and SGPD officers initiated a pursuit.”
The chase moved onto NB I-15 and involved other agencies as it traveled through Hurricane toward Springdale. The department said they spiked the tires of the van involved twice before they reached Zion National Park, where the van eventually crashed and started a fire.
SGPD said the man was taken into custody and transported to St. George Regional Hospital with minor injuries; they have not yet confirmed his identity.
Of the three churches vandalized, the department said the building on 3000 East did not have a fire suppression system and sustained significant damage; the building on River Road did have a suppression system and sustained some fire and water damage; and the landscaping at the final meetinghouse sustained some damage.
St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker told KSL.com that the fires have not yet been labeled arson, but they are extremely suspicious.
Investigators from St. George Fire, Police along with the Utah State Fire Marshal and the ATF are all looking into the incidents. They ask anyone with any information or who witnessed anything to contact them at 435-627-4338.
“Anytime we get any type of fire at a place of worship whether it’s suspicious or not we would contact the state fire marshal and ATF just because we do not know where that investigation would lead, whether it’s an accidental or suspicious fire,” Stoker added.
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