An illegal immigrant from China was charged with second-degree arson this week after attempting to burn down a century-old church in Montgomery, Ala. on Sept. 30.
Xiaoquin Yan, 27, was arrested and held on a $30,000 bond at the Montgomery County Detention Facility for allegedly setting several fires inside the historic First Baptist Church Montgomery, WSFA 12 reported.
A Chinese citizen, Yan was in the United States on a student visa that Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said has been revoked.
Bailey filed a motion to increase the bail amount set for the arson suspect, writing that “she is…in the country illegally” and “the current bail amount is woefully inadequate to secure her presence in court given her strong ties to an overseas country.”
According to an arrest affidavit, Yan was identified as the suspected arsonist after officials reviewed video footage of the incident. Police said the fire was the result of an open flame that was used to “ignite an ignitable liquid.”
No motive for the incident has been established.
First Baptist Church’s lead pastor, Mark Bethea, said at least four fires were set inside the church, including the main sanctuary, the Stakely Sanctuary, and multiple office spaces, WSFA 12 reported.
“By God’s grace none of them got out of control and thank goodness our wonderful police department and firefighters came in quickly took care of everything and the damage,” Bethea said. “In most places it’s very minimal.”
“It could have been much worse,” Bethea added, noting flame-retardant carpet helped keep the fire from spreading. Court records indicate the blaze caused at least $25,000 in damage.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who worships at the church each week with thousands of other members, said she was heartbroken by the attack.
“I’m deeply saddened to hear of this hateful act upon my church,” Ivey said in a statement. “I’m grateful to Pastor Mark’s leadership and response to such a hurtful moment in our community.”
The church shared an image of the fire’s aftermath on Facebook.
“On this last day of September, recall our Scripture memory verse that we have spoken and memorized alongside one another each time we gather: ‘For God has given us a spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and self-control,'” the post stated.
When asked what he would say to the arsonist, Bethea responded, “By God’s grace all of us are sinners and have fallen short of God’s standards and Glory. So as a church we extend God’s love and grace to all people.”