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Investigators arrest suspect in church break-ins, arsons

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Posted at 2:20 AM, Jun 26, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Arson investigators have arrested a 26-year-old man in connection with three church burglaries and arsons in the Nashville area.

Nashville Fire Department officials said Alan Fox was taken into custody Wednesday at a South Nashville apartment complex.

Investigators said a anonymous tips to the State Fire Marshal’s arson hotline led to his arrest.

"It's a shame, it's a real shame that somebody would attack a church," said Rick Musacchio with Diocese of Nashville.

The first incident happened at Crievewood Baptist Church on Hogan Road in South Nashville, at about 10:30p.m. Tuesday.

Next, officers and firefighters were called to Priest Lake Community Baptist Church in Antioch at about 1 a.m. Wednesday. Metro Police said a person threw a large rock through a glass door in the back of the church, then dragged a trash can into the gymnasium and lit its contents on fire under some curtains.

Then less than an hour later, authorities were called to St. Ignatius Catholic Church on Bell Road. In that case, police said at least one man broke the glass front door and took two flatscreen televisions and other items. A fire was set in a storeroom.

"It's a setback that we lost mattresses, supplies and things we need to do that, but these are just things; we're thankful that nobody was hurt," Musacchio said.

There were surveillance cameras in operation at St. Ignatius, that help provide police with a picture of the suspect.

The first church that caught on fire was Crievewood Baptist Church, Pastor Ray Miller was out of town when he got the news. He wrote a note to his congregation on how he felt.

"I talked about how I was sad, sickened and angry within my body," said Miller.

Miller says when he heard two other churches were also targeted he said he realized it was bigger then him.

"I felt like our safety was violated at the same time we talk about a lot in our church where’s your center is the center of your life with the way of the world or with God’s grace."

Investigators said the suspect broke glass in a back door, went into a classroom and set fire to a cabinet. Miller called that room a scared space during times of grief.

"We don't know this man's motivation, but we do know that just like all of us he needs Jesus and he needs God's grace," Miller said.

During an interview, investigators said Fox confessed to setting the fires. They also found items stolen during the burglaries inside his apartment.

The investigation remains ongoing.