A former maintenance worker at a predominantly black south Kansas City church admitted in U.S. District on Friday that he spray-painted racist graffiti on the front entrance and then set a fire to cover up a theft.
Nathaniel D. Nelson, 49, was accused of setting the fire in an office of the Concord Cultural Center, adjacent to the Concord Fortress of Hope Church, where he was also a member.
Prosecutors said Nelson admitted to stealing money from inside the cultural center to buy crack cocaine. Nelson, who is black, said he had spray-painted the graffiti and set the fire in an attempt to throw off investigators.
Fire crews responded to the fire early Oct. 29, 2017, but a sprinkler had extinguished it before they arrived. Investigators determined that an office chair and other combustibles had been intentionally set on fire. The church’s insurance company paid out more than $330,000.
Congregants were greeted that morning with a racial slur, the letters “KKK” and a symbol similar to a swastika on the main entrance.
Nelson was captured on a video inside the foyer just before he unplugged the surveillance system, according to prosecutors. But he was unaware of a second system, which recorded video of him outside spray-painting the graffiti.
SOURCE: GLENN E. RICE
The Kansas City Star