Sylmar community shaken as crosses set on fire in apparent hate crime

For eight years, three crosses representing the ones on which Jesus and two others were crucified stood solidly in front of this church in Sylmar

People prayed around them. Some arranged food drives around them.

Around 4:40 a.m. Thursday, the crosses were torched. The Los Angeles Fire Department said an accelerant was used, but they're not absolutely positive. It's under investigation.

As we talked with a shocked Karen Camacho, who went to school here as a child, he started to cry.

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"It's just very sad that this is happening. We have this incident that is a very shocking incident that happened to our community and we don't want it to happen again," she said.

Ministers and members from various churches in the area came by. Looked at the burnt wood from the pre-dawn attack; an attack being investigated as a hate crime by the Houses of Worship Task Force that includes members of the LAPD, LAFD, ATF and FBT. 

LA City Fire Captain Stephen Phillips says it could have been much worse had it not been for a good Samaritan. 

"It appears that somebody used a garden hose when the saw that the crosses were on fire and put the fires out," Phillips said.

Why would somebody do something like this? 

We talked with the church's Pastor Pierre Howard. He says the whole thing is tough. 

"Very hard!" He said. "Emotionally, it's unsettling to know that something that you love is on fire; something that represents your faith is on fire."

The church is predominantly made up of African Americans. We asked him if he thought it was a hate crime. 

"Hate crime based on race?" He responded. "I would say no. Hate crime based on that person's hatred toward God versus vs. Man? Yes."

As he looked into our camera as if to speak to the suspect(s) he said, "God Bless you! God Forgives you! Ask for forgiveness! Don't do it again."