ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – Police in southern Utah are investigating after a man allegedly started fires at multiple Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints churches and fleeing officers.
At around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning, St. George Police say a fire alarm notification was activated at the LDS Church at 1295 S 3000 E. St. George Fire crews confirmed the building was ablaze and called in assistance from nearby fire agencies.
A short time later, authorities say they received a call of a tree on fire at another nearby LDS Church on River Road and Rustic Drive. St. George Police say they began checking on other churches within the area for similar problems.
One officer located a silver minivan parked at the LDS Church at 1762 S River Road and saw smoke rising from the building. A man was seen leaving the church, fleeing the area in the minivan at a high rate of speed. Officers tried to stop the vehicle, which fled.
St. George Police say officers followed the van northbound on I-15 and requested assistance from neighboring agencies. The chase continued through Hurricane and toward Springdale. Officers spiked the vehicle twice before reaching Zion National Park.
Once reaching the park, the vehicle crashed and started on fire. Authorities were able to take the unidentified man into custody. Zion National Park shared the above photo of the van as well as the below video from the scene.
Authorities are now investigating fires at three LDS churches in St. George and are trying to determine if more churches have been vandalized. The church located on 3000 East was not equipped with a fire suppression system and sustained significant fire damage. The church on River Road suffered some fire and water damage while the location on Rustic Drive and River Road sustained fire damage to the landscaping.
If you have any information about these incidents, witnessed anything suspicious in the hours before these fires, or located any damage you believe may be related, you are asked to contact St. George Police at 435-627-4338.