Man arrested for threatening to burn down Virginia Beach African American church

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James Bareswill allegedly called the church and threatened to burn it down after calling the church members racial slurs.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A man from North Carolina is accused of calling an African-American church in Virginia Beach and threatening to set it on fire.

John Malcolm Bareswill, 63, was arrested on Friday and faces multiple charges in connection to this crime.

On June 7, Bareswill allegedly phoned the church, which has a predominantly African-American congregation, made racial remarks and, at some point, said he would set the church on fire.

A church member contacted Virginia Beach police right after receiving the call. The member told police that the call was put on speakerphone and heard by two other adult members and several children.

The caller said something along the lines of, “You [racial slur] need to shut up,” then threatened to burn down the church.

This call came several days after one of the church leaders took part in a public prayer vigil and peaceful demonstration for George Floyd.

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Bareswill is charged with making a telephonic threat to use fire to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual, or unlawfully to damage or destroy a building.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison. He is set to make a federal court appearance in Norfolk on Friday.

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