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Last of 3 Men Sought in Church Burning Arrested

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Federal authorities investigating church arsons nationwide on Wednesday arrested the last of three men who allegedly set fire to an Iowa church in 1993 in an effort to intimidate black parishioners, the FBI said.

A team of FBI agents and local police arrested Christopher Dean Quillen, 23, at his girlfriend’s home in El Cajon, said FBI spokeswoman Jan Caldwell.

On Tuesday, FBI agents arrested Quillen’s brother, John Raymond Quillen, 24, in Des Moines. Another suspect, William Harrison, 24, surrendered to authorities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on July 9 and pleaded guilty to federal civil rights and arson charges.

The brothers face federal conspiracy and arson charges in connection with an Aug. 15, 1993, fire that damaged the Second Baptist Church in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The church was unoccupied at the time, and no one was injured. The suspects allegedly set fire to an outside wall using a makeshift wooden cross they had soaked with gasoline.

The racially mixed congregation has an African American pastor.

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The arrests carry a “message to all those who would act out of racial hatred to frighten, intimidate or threaten any citizen in the exercise of his or her rights: The federal government will not rest until you are brought to justice,” said Stephen J. Rapp, U.S. attorney for northern Iowa.

The suspects are not linked to any other church burnings, officials said.

Caldwell said it did not appear the men were connected with organized white supremacist groups. “It looks like they’re just three guys acting alone,” she said.

The Quillens, residents of Fort Dodge, were indicted in Cedar Rapids on July 15, and arrest warrants were issued the next day. It was unclear how long Christopher Quillen had been in El Cajon.

The arrests followed an investigation by the National Church Arson Task Force.


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