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Church Maintenance Man Charged After Using Racist Graffiti, Arson as Cover-Up for Burglary

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A maintenance man at a church in Missouri has been charged after admitting that he spray painted racist graffiti on the windows of the church and set fire to a chair in order to cover up that he had broken into two offices to steal money, which he used to buy cocaine.

An affidavit filed by an ATF investigator in federal court outlines that Nathaniel Nelson, 48, who works for the predominantly African American Concord Fortress of Hope Church, painted the letters “KKK,” the phrase “You next n*gger” and a swastika on the church early Sunday morning, and also set an office chair on fire inside of the church’s cultural center. Nelson is of African American descent himself.

Church officials called police, who also “discovered pry marks on the wooden door leading into the finance office in the church, which indicated that someone had attempted to force entry into the room.” It was additionally found that someone had apparently intentionally disconnected the digital video recorder for the church surveillance camera.

Police watched the footage on the recorder up until the point that it was unplugged, and saw a man in the foyer area, who was later identified by Deputy Chief Karl Oakman, who attends Concord Fortress of Hope Church, as Nelson. Another digital video recorder that had not been disconnected captured the same man spray painting the front of the church.

Officials then interviewed Nelson, but it was concluded that the story he provided was false.

“The fictitious timeline included Nelson’s return to the church during the early morning hours of October 29, 2017 after he received a phone call from the alarm company indicating a motion alarm was being received in the main church building,” the affidavit outlines.

“Nelson also informed investigators that the church had recently received a racially motivated threat from an old white man,” it notes.

Police then Mirandized Nelson, advising that he had been captured on church surveillance footage and that it was apparent that he was lying about his activities. Nelson initially denied having anything to do with the crime, but eventually told the truth.

He said that the deactivated the alarm system upon his arrival at the church and then went to the back room to smoke crack cocaine.

“At some point after getting high, Nelson indicated he went into the church office area and attempted to force his way into the finance office to steal money,” the affidavit reads. “Nelson told investigators that he then left the church [with over $200] to purchase more crack cocaine.”

He also broke into the church vending machines after returning, but only found $2.

“Toward the end of the interview, Nelson admitted to investigators that he intentionally set a fire inside the office area of the Concord Cultural Center,” the ATF agent outlines. “Nelson told investigators that after he set the fire, he left the church and drove around, subsequently checking himself into the emergency room at Research Medical Center in order to establish an alibi.”

However, he left the hospital after a urine sample was requested for a drug test.

“Nelson admitted to investigators during the interview that he spray painted the front of the church with inflammatory graffiti and intentionally set the fire to create a diversion and throw investigators off,” the affidavit reads.

Nelson was arrested on Monday and has now been charged with arson. He has a previous criminal record relating to burglary and forgery, and violated his parole in 2010 after being caught smoking crack cocaine.

“If he is the one that did it, I think he needs help,” church member Steven Murry told local television station KSHB. “We all need help really, but I think if he’s the one responsible, he needs help.”

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