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UPDATE: Person of interest in Greenville church burning

GREENVILLE, Miss.- Authorities have confirmed there is a person of interest in the Greenville church burning case, but no official suspect. 

Wednesday, the fire was ruled an arson, and an award was set at $11,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has raised well over the $10,000 goal, with the total approaching $150,000 by 8 a.m. on Thursday.

The church was burned and vandalized by what appears to be a political message, local police confirmed.

Officials revealed that Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville was set ablaze while the phrase “Vote Trump” was spray painted on the side of the building.

Mayor Errik Simmons informed the public of the incident through a press conference on Wednesday morning.

He said by the time authorities arrived at the church around 9:16 p.m. on Tuesday night the building was already engulfed in flames.

The church caters primarily to an African-American congregation. Simmons said the act is being treated as a hate crime, targeting religious freedom.

“This act is a direct assault on people’s right to freely worship,” said Simmons. “We will not rest until the culprit is found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

The FBI has been asked to come in and investigate.

Fire Chief Willie Brown said it took firefighters approximately 12 minutes to put out the flames. The entire sanctuary was charred from the fire and there was heavy heat, water, and smoke damage in the pastor’s study and kitchen area.

Delando Wilson with the Greenville Police Department said that they do not currently have any suspects, but a person of interest is being questioned. He assured the public that they are using all resources they have to solve the crime.

“First of all with all that has gone on we still give God the glory and the praise and we give him the honor because he is still God,” said Pastor Hudson. “We do believe that God would allow us to build another sanctuary in that same place.”

Hudson said the congregation has already seen a helping hand from the community as they go through this heartbreaking time.

“We do know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord,” said Hudson.

She asked for continued prayers for the congregation and process of moving forward for the church.

If you have any information regarding the crime please call, 662-378-1616, or 662-378-TIPS.

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