• Independence man charged with arson in church fire

  • An Independence man has been charged with arson following a church fire in Independence early Friday morning.

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  • An Independence man has been charged with arson following a church fire in Independence early Friday morning.
    Joseph W. Gazafy, 22, was charged Friday morning with arson, a second degree felony.
    The fire, which broke out at the Church of Jesus Christ Outreach Restoration branch at Crysler and Linden avenues at about 1:45 a.m., caused noticeable damage, most of which was located in the basement and portions of the upper floor.
    Tom Gentry, spokesperson for police, said the suspect called the department at about 2:30 a.m. and said that he started the fire.
    “It’s our understanding that he has some problems, some issues he’s going through,” Gentry said.
    Prosecutors said that Gazafy told emergency responders that he was “in the mood for a midnight fire” and that he had glass in his shoe. He broke out the window in the church and started the fire with gasoline.
    No other information was available about the man or the reason behind why he started it.
    KMBC, The Examiner’s news partner, reported that some church members said that the man, who has not been identified, started the fire “because he was mad at God.”
    Chari Pedersen, of Independence, has been attending the church for about 13 years. She said her sister called her early Friday and told her what happened.
    “It’s scary to think that it happened,” Pedersen said, adding that she heard police had someone in custody. She said she doesn’t believe he was a member.
    “It’s comforting to know that he isn’t,” she said.
    Leroy Campbell, a former pastor at the church, said members will most likely have to meet at one of the schools in the area until repairs can be made.
    “It’ll be a while,” he said.
    A pastor at the church for three years, he said he remembers walking past the church as a kid when he went to watch baseball games at Crysler Stadium. Until 11 years ago, the church was nothing more than a basement before members constructed the above-ground floor.
    On Friday, members gathered around the exterior to look at the damage. Windows near the rear of the building were broken out and the aluminum siding was melted in places.
    Pedersen said that from what she could tell, most of the damage was confined to the basement and kitchen areas but that smoke was heavy throughout the building.
    A bond of $30,000 was requested by prosecutors.

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