FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - Fire claimed a key part of a church’s charity in the South Sound.
A 15-person passenger van belonging to Christ’s Church Federal Way was destroyed by flames on Sept. 2. The fire was determined to be arson.
There is a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of a suspect. As much of a loss as it is for the church, Pastor Jeff Moorehead said he forgives those responsible.
"We need to be difference makers in the world in which we live and try to reach people like this who do things like this," said Moorehead.
Nothing but the steel frame and tires are left of the van. Moorehead said it has been an eyesore ever since the fire, but explained they are waiting for insurance adjusters to give them confirmation to remove it.
"We have people coming to church still going, ‘What in the world happened out there?’" said Moorehead.
He said no one knows the cause of the flames that torched the van. The only surveillance camera positioned towards it wasn’t working that night. Moorehead said the uptick in vandalism in the community leaves him to think someone is responsible.
"It’s always frustrating when you see things happening in your community that didn’t normally happen years ago. Now, you see the trend going up," said Moorehead.
Data from Federal Way Police Department paired with Google-based mapping showed 243 crime reports so far in 2022—with theft, car theft and arson all happening in the same neighborhood as the church. Detectives are investigating this particular case as arson.
"They told us they have a person of interest, and it could be related to things they found when they looked through what was left here. We know there was some things that we found that we gave to them, as well—some IDs as well as a receipt that happened the day of. That could have been their receipt," said Moorehead.
The pastor said the church has also been a victim of previous break-ins and graffiti.
"We’ve got three vehicles—two vans, one shuttle. We’ve had the catalytic converters cut off each one of them two different times," said Moorehead.
He further mentioned the church’s security guard caught two suspects trying to steal the catalytic converter from the burned van with a sawzall. This happened as the parking lot was full of cars for a youth program inside the church.
"Even with something like this, people are still looking for ways to vandalize, unfortunately, for whatever they desire to get out of it," said the pastor.
The van was used to transport children, senior citizens, veterans and congregation members to different church events and programs throughout the state. Area churches also borrowed the van for services. Moorehead said there is an insurance plan in motion to replace the van, and it will be removed later this week.
Until it’s gone, the shell of the van is like a reminder of the work the congregation continues doing spreading hope.
"Love people and help those who are really struggling in life and this is what God has called us to do. And we realize things are going to happen like this, you just don’t like to see them happen in the way they happen that brings danger to people," said Moorehead. "It’s a big community of people who love one another, care for one another, hold each other accountable, keep each other motivated in a world that can be very, very dark and despairing sometimes."