OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJZ)—A church community in Ocean City says goodbye to its beloved pastor as police rule his death a homicide. A man set himself on fire and ran into the church last Tuesday.
Mary Bubala reports surveillance video has surfaced of that man buying gasoline just moments before the tragedy.
Church members carry their lost leader to his final resting place. Pastor David Dingwall of St. Paul’s By-The-Sea Episcopal Church was killed in a fire last Tuesday at his Ocean City church.
“It’s very sad to lose Father David. I know he would have want to continue on,” said Sheryl Nottingham, parishioner.
Police say John Sterner– a man the pastor had helped clothe and feed — covered himself in fuel, set himself on fire and ran into the church just as volunteers were setting up a Thanksgiving food bank.
“We don’t have any idea of his motivation other than we are fairly certain that he intended to take his
own life,” said Capt. Mike Colbert, Ocean City Police Department.
Police have ruled Sterner’s death a suicide and Dingwall’s a homicide.
Investigators say surveillance video, exclusively obtained by CBS affiliate WBOC, was recovered by police just hours after the fire.
It shows Sterner purchasing a gas can and gasoline just blocks from the church and minutes before the fire.
Police say it gave them a better insight into how Sterner’s actions unfolded a week ago.
“There’s probably a 20-25 minute lapse, but you know, a lot of that has to do with the travel distance on foot and then we have other video that picks him up behind the church,” Colbert said.
Police say Sterner threw himself at food bank volunteer Dana Truitt.
She has burns over 20 percent of her body.
Truitt was rushed to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center to be treated for her severe injuries.
“Her chest area got burnt, her shoulders, her back in her thighs,” said Crystal Rees, victim’s sister.
Court records show Sterner had a lengthy arrest record in Ocean City for assault and drug possession.
Court documents indicate he was homeless.
Parts of the church suffered significant damage, but its main worship center is intact.
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