North Carolina man accused of threatening to burn down black church in Virginia Beach arrested

Virginia News

John Malcolm Bareswill (Western Tidewater Regional Jail)

NORFOLK, Va. (WRIC) — A North Carolina man was arrested Friday by federal authorities after he allegedly threatened to burn down a black church in Virginia Beach last week.

According to court documents, 63-year-old John Malcolm Bareswill made a threatening phone call on June 7 to a church with a predominantly African American congregation in Virginia Beach. A member of the church informed the local police department that a man had called and said “words to the effect of ‘you [racial slur] need to shut up,’ and threatened to set fire to the church,” a release from the Justice Department said.

“Our office takes seriously any threat to the lives and well-being of our fellow citizens,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.

According to an affidavit, witnesses said the call was overheard on speakerphone by two members of the church and also three children.

“Threats meant to silence or intimidate people because of their race or religion, like the one allegedly made here, have our highest priority. No one should be made to fear for their safety or the safety of their church for speaking out, and we will seek justice for victims of those who allegedly violate that right,” Terwilliger’s statement continued.

Bareswill has been charged with making a telephonic threat to use fire to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual or to unlawfully damage or destroy a building. He was set to appear in federal court Friday and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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