By Mike Schuh

DUNDALK, Md. (WJZ)– For years, a church in southeast Baltimore County has struggled with minor vandalism.

But now, as Mike Schuh reports, what happened Tuesday night has caught the attention of federal authorities.

A few months ago, red paint was splashed on their sign.

“We’ve been having a little problems in the area,” Mary Gray, a member of the Pleasant Zion Baptist Church, said.

It seemed like every other week, their security lights are targeted.

“It hurts, it really hurts,” Gray said.

Then there was spray paint on the walls.

Schuh: “What did they paint?”
Rev. James Gray, Pleasant Zion Baptist Church: “KKK.”

But nothing prepared them for this– flames through the roof, high winds whipped up the fire, a half million dollars in damages.

Not only is the sanctuary heavily damaged, but this hall that they use to feed people has been reduced to rubble.

“We feed over 170 people. Not today, not today. I feel sorry for them too,” Rev. James Gray said.

It started out back from the sheds, up to the roof and on to ruin.

The congregation says it’s obviously arson.

“At that time, what’s running through your mind to do something like that? You don’t have something better to do?” William Evans said.

“People just don’t care no more,” Rev. James Gray said.

Late Wednesday afternoon, police confirmed it.

“Our investigators on the arson team have determined that this fire was an arson,” Elise Armacost, spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police Department, said.

They will rebuild, the cost to be borne by the insurance companies.

“And we just keep our heads up because we know this is just a temporary place. This is not our home. We just worship here,” Mary Gray said.

“The church is in the heart. This is just a building we worship in. See the building means nothing. Thank the Lord we here, right?” Rev. James Gray said.

The arson has been reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Cardinal Edwin O’Brien visited the church on Wednesday and offered the use of a nearby Catholic church while repairs are being done.

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