Christopher A. Durant, 38, was charged with arson in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo.
Today’s complaint alleges that Durant set fire to the building at 5910-5916 East U.S. Highway 40 in Kansas City, which housed Beyond Thee Four Walls Ministries, on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
The Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department was dispatched to that location at approximately 3:25 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Upon arrival, firefighters encountered heavy fire inside the one-story commercial structure.
According to an affidavit filed in support of today’s federal criminal complaint, investigators reviewed video surveillance footage that depicted an unknown man – later identified as Durant – throwing chunks of asphalt at the front windows of the building at about 12:54 a.m. A few minutes later, the affidavit says, Durant returns and lights an unknown object and places it in through what appears to be the mail slot in the front door. He then lights what appears to be a piece of paper and places it in through the mail slot. He then lights another unidentified object and places it in through the front window previously broken out by the chunks of asphalt. Duran then leaves at approximately 1 a.m.
At about 1:30 a.m., the affidavit says, video surveillance footage depicts Durant returning to the church, lighting what appears to be a piece of paper, and placing it through the front window. Approximately two minutes later, Durant walks up to the front window with an object in his hand and leans in through the broken window, which is then followed by a large flash consistent with the introduction and subsequent ignition of an ignitable liquid.
During the fire scene examination, an accelerant detection canine was used to process the scene to determine if an ignitable liquid was present. The canine indicated an area on the floor inside the church, under the same window Durant allegedly had broken and appeared to introduce an ignitable liquid. This area was also later determined to be the area of the fire origin.
On Thursday, Aug. 27, ATF agents noticed Durant, who matched the description of the unknown suspect depicted in the church video surveillance footage, walking on Van Brunt Boulevard and arrested him. At the time of his arrest, Durant was in possession of marijuana.
The charge contained in this complaint is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Morgan. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, and the Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department’s Fire Investigation Unit.
Operation LeGend is a federal partnership with local law enforcement to address the increase in homicides and violent crime in Kansas City, Mo., in 2020. The operation honors the memory of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, one of the youngest fatalities during a record-breaking year of homicides and shootings. Additional federal agents were assigned to the operation from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service.