GREENVILLE, MISS– The man police believe to be responsible for the November 1 arson and vandalism of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church was arrested Wednesday.
Greenville Police Chief Delando Wilson confirmed the arrest.
Andrew McClinton saw the judge for the first time Thursday. Bond was set at $250,000, and he requested a public defender.
“He has been charged with one count of first degree arson of a place of worship,” said Wilson. “McClinton is awaiting his initial appearance in Greenville Municipal Court.”
Several agencies, including the Greenville Police Department, Greenville Fire Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Department, ATF, FBI, MBI, and the state fire marshal are continuously investigating the arson.
When firefighters arrived to the scene of the church fire on November 1st, they found the building engulfed in flames with the words “Vote Trump” spray-painted on the charred brick.
The message on the side of the building led to public outcry and speculation of the motive–with public opinion ranging from Clinton supporters paying for the arsonist to Trump supporters trying to incite fear.
Investigators denied any political involvement, and said McClinton acted alone.
“What bothered us was that someone tried to make this appear politically or racially motivated,” said Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney. “But that was not the case.”
Commissioner Chaney said investigators have known that it wasn’t politically motivated since the beginning.
“What’s ironic is, after the “vote Trump” was spray-painted on the building in an effort to disguise the burning of the church,” said Chaney. “The Trump campaign donated money to rebuild the church.”
McClinton had been a person of interest from the beginning.
“The investigators had a pretty good idea of who burned the church… pretty early on, probably the day of,” said Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney. “But it takes time to get the information and evidence together.”
Chaney said that McClinton confessed to the arson.
“There’s still a lot we can’t talk about, evidence wise,” said Chaney. “But we’re hoping more of that will come out.”
Fingerprint evidence has linked McClinton to the spray-painted message as well as the fire itself.
“We’ve got the right guy,” said Chaney. “We’ve got enough to put him away.”
McClinton is scheduled for court Thursday.