FBI offers $50K reward in Armenian church arson investigation

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – An Armenian church building in San Francisco was intentionally set on fire earlier this year.

On Thursday, FBI announced a five-figure reward for information that can solve the hate crime.

This Armenian church that’s been around for 60 years went up in flames in the early morning hours back in September but on Thursday, the question remains, who was behind the arson?

The FBI hopes a $50,000 reward will get some answers.

“We are committed to protecting the first amendment rights of everyone in our communities including the free exercise of religious beliefs,” Craig Fair, FBI Special Agent, said. 

FBI Special Agent Craig Fair stands in front of what is left of the Cultural Center of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco announcing his bureau is financially backing a hate crime investigation.

They are offering up to $50,000 for information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or people who intentionally set the structure on fire at around 4:15 a.m. on September 17th.

This newly announced reward is in addition to the $25,000 being offered by the local Armenian community seeking answers.

“Thankfully no one was injured however this attack was not just on a building but on a congregation. This was an attack on a community,” Fair said.

The church arson was one of three hate crimes targeting San Francisco’s Armenian community this year – sparking not only flames – but fear among the group.

Two days later on September 19th, the KZV Armenian School was shot at and on July 24th hateful graffiti was discovered on their campus walls where Haig Baghdassarian’s daughter graduated last year.

“We’re hopeful that what’s been offered by the FBI as well as what’s been offered by the community will entice the people that know something about the crime to step forward it’s been a terrifying thing to have to deal with,” Baghdassarian said.

Police have not identified any suspect and these incidents have not officially been linked but the FBI wants any details on all three of the crimes.

In the meantime, the Armenian community can’t help but fear this may be connected to, yet another devastating war waged once more between Turkey-backed Azerbaijan and their homeland this fall.

“It almost seems like the July and the September events were a precursor to the devastating events that were launched against the Armenian nation between September 27th and November 10th of this year while much of the world’s attention was turned away due to the pandemic and the presidential elections here in the U.S. the dissidents who perpetrated the Armenian genocide 100 years ago,” Baghdassarian said.

If you have information, call the FBI San Francisco Division at 415-553-7400 or go to tips.fbi.gov. You can also call the SFPD anonymous tip line at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411.

Baghdassarian went on to say it catching a suspect will really help put the Armenian community at ease.

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