By Paul Thompson

Northeast News

March 21, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – An area man is suspected of targeting a Northeast church with arson – and the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department is reaching out to the public for help identifying the individual.

KCPD issued three still images of the suspect of interest on Tuesday, March 21. The individual allegedly started an intentional fire at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (711 Benton) on Saturday, March 4, following a confrontation with Pastor Brad Zerkel.

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer Administrative Assistant Ana Cuellar described the details of the incident, much of which was captured on exterior security cameras, to the Northeast News. Sometime after 6:00 p.m. that evening, the suspect approached the front door of the church asking for a jacket. According to Cuellar, Zerkel was working late that evening and answered the door to let the individual grab a coat. Once inside, the suspect tried to take more items, leading to a disagreement. Zerkel kicked the man out and left the church shortly thereafter, at about ten minutes before 7:00 p.m.

The suspect returned just after 7:00 p.m. with a backpack in tow. Cuellar said that his blonde-streaked hair and striped pants served as identifying features.

“You can see him walking up towards the door with a black backpack,” said Cuellar. “As he comes up closer to the door, he pulls out a red gas canister. He just starts splashing it around, bending in front of the doors.”

After splashing the liquid from the gas canister around the doors, the suspect put the canister into his backpack and walked away. After getting halfway down the parking lot, he stopped in his tracks and bolted back to the front door.

“I’m not sure if he struck a match or he threw down a lighter,” said Cuellar. “You can see him turn around quickly and then his arm extending out.”

From there a fire lit up around the doorway, potentially causing thousands of dollars worth of damages.

“He ended up damaging one door completely. One of the sides of the double doors is just plywood right now,” said Cuellar. “All of the wooden trim around the doors was completely consumed. We haven’t figured out all of the costs yet.”

KCPD has informed the church that they are still actively pursuing leads in the case. For their part, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer have determined that the culprit is not a regular attendee.

“We’ve never seen him around. Usually we have regulars here at church, and he was not one of them,” said Cuellar.

Anyone with any information related to the case or about the suspect of interest has been asked to report it to the TIPS hotline at (816) 474-8477.