3 Suspicious Fires Damage LDS Meetinghouses in St. George

Three separate fires damaged meetinghouses for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in St. George, Utah on Tuesday, August 31, 2021. One of the fires caused significant damage.

In the local news report, the first fire was reported at approximately 4 a.m. to a meetinghouse on 3000 East in the 1200 South block. This was the most serious fire and sustained heavy damage. Soon after, another report came in stating portions of the landscaping at a meetinghouse near River Road and Rustic Drive.

Now alert, police officers in the area began checking other meetinghouses and discovered smoke from a third meetinghouse. A silver minivan was parked outside and they saw a man exit the building. They were unable to stop the man and a vehicular chase ensued. The tires were spiked twice in an attempt to stop the vehicle, which eventually crashed near Zion National Park and caught on fire. No one was seriously injured and the man is now in custody; no information about the man’s identity has been released.

Robert Stoker, the St. George Fire Chief, told reporters the fires were being labeled as suspicious but arson had not been officially confirmed.

The man who allegedly set fires to three churches belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Tuesday in St. George told officers he was acting in “righteous anger” and that he was a “type of deity,” according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Benjamin James Johnson, 36, was charged in 5th District Court with three counts of arson, failing to stop at the command of police and damaging a jail, third-degree felonies, spitting on an officer, a class A misdemeanor, and reckless driving, a class B misdemeanor.

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