Arsonist sought in series of church fires

SAN DIEGO -- An arsonist made a failed attempt early Tuesday to spark a blaze at a University Heights church that was damaged twice last month by maliciously set fires, prompting a reward of up $10,000 to be offered.

A caller reported seeing a suspicious-looking person loitering near the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 200 block of Adams Avenue shortly after midnight, according to San Diego police.

Patrol officers and firefighters found no fire on the grounds upon their arrival, but detected an odor believed to be from some type of flammable liquid that someone had poured on the property, a dispatcher said. They also saw that letters from an exterior church sign had been torn down and a hole cut in a fence.

Early Friday morning, emergency crews extinguished a small fire at the church and found "666'' spray-painted on a wall. On Dec. 20, someone intentionally ignited a blaze there in the predawn hours in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence of a break-in, authorities said.

City Councilman Todd Gloria announced this afternoon that a reward has been posted for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

"San Diegans must stand together against these senseless acts,'' said Gloria, who represents the district where the church is located.

Now the church is upgrading its security by installing iron gates on all entrances, and buying camera's to record activity on the grounds. 

It's still not known if this is a hate crime.  "This could be anyone doing this, as of now we are not connecting all the fires together," said Maurice LuQue with the San Diego Fire Department. 

Anyone with information about the fires is urged to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477, or contact the nonprofit agency online at sdcrimestoppers.com. Tipsters may remain anonymous.