THOMASVILLE, N.C. — A FOX8 reporter chased two possible suspects in what appeared to be an attempted church arson on Monday afternoon.
On Monday, police responded to two churches on Jewel Street that were vandalized late Sunday and early Monday morning.
According to police, vandals entered the building and trashed church offices, emptied paint cans on the carpets, destroyed relics in the sanctuary and set various small fires using charcoal briquettes.
When reporter Mitch Carr and Photojournalist Mike Durenberger returned to the scene on Monday afternoon, they both smelled gasoline and smoke coming from the building.
Both Carr and Durenberger then spotted two men, one carrying a lighter, running from the rear of the building.
Carr chased the fleeing suspects as Durenberger called for police and the fire department.
Police later located two suspects in a house at the corner of Jewel Street and Guilford Street.
The fire department responded and was able to put the fire at the church before it caused any additional damage.
Pastor James Sherwood, head of the Perry Memorial Church of the Living God is pained by the damage done to his church.
“Oh it hurts me. I’ve been crying inside,” said Sherwood.
Pastor Jose Leo Melara of the New Jerusalem Mount Sinai Pentecostal Church, is trying to understand how the incidents are part of God’s plan.
“I don’t understand the motive that allowed this (to happen),” said Melara. “This breaks my heart.”
Both pastors said they were united in their plans to rebuild.
“Together we’re going to work. Together we’re going to put this back together. Together we’re going to clean this. Together we’re going to lift this up,” said Melara.
twitvid.com/3W8PC - The church is burnt and smells like gas and paint; the people are weeping but they're also praying and singing. W—
Mitch Carr (@mitchcarrtv) June 04, 2012
According to police the investigation is ongoing. The young men are in custody, but neither have been formally charged.