Suspect caught on surveillance video attempting to set fire to Kensington church

Saturday, February 8, 2020
Church arson suspect caught on video in Kensington
A man was caught on surveillance video trying to torch a church in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A man was caught on surveillance video trying to set a church on fire in the Kensington section of Philadelphia Thursday morning.

Authorities said the man used a Molotov cocktail in an attempt to start a fire at about 12:30 a.m., at the St. Michael's Lutheran Church at the corner of Trenton and Cumberland streets.

The church has been in the community and assisted residents for 149 years.

"...We've never turned anybody away that comes looking for food," said Church Council President George Koski.

Authorities said it was raining at the time of the crime and the arsonist was having a hard time lighting the device.

"He's here maybe 10 to 15 minutes trying to get it to light," said Koski. "It was filled with liquid and it had some kind of a wick or something like that he uses to try and light it."

During the course of it all, he set off a motion-activated doorbell camera.

"At exactly 12:33 a.m., he was actually dumb enough to ring the doorbell to which we actually got a real good picture of his face," said Koski

In addition to capturing an excellent photo of his face, the camera also captured the distinctive logo on the back of the jacket the man was wearing at the time.

Fortunately, maybe due to the rain, the fire was extinguished and the attempted arson caused minimal damage to the church door.

Even so, the crime has volunteers in fear.

"I mean a lot of our volunteers, they take a lot of pride and they're scared now to go to the door to even answer the door or anything, so we want this guy off the street as soon as possible," said Koski.

If you recognize the man, authorities ask that you call authorities at 888-ATF-Fire or contact the Philadelphia Fire Department with any information.