Underwear-clad man climbs atop church, sets cross on fire in Boyle Heights

With Fire Department personnel standing below, a man crouches next to a fire atop a church.
A man who climbed onto the roof of a Boyle Heights church and set a small fire beneath a cross was detained by Los Angeles police Wednesday night.

Wearing only blue boxer shorts and one black sock, a man climbed atop the roof of a Boyle Heights church Wednesday night and set a fire at the foot of a small cross, authorities said.

The Los Angeles Fire Department responded around 8:25 p.m. to reports of a person trying to jump off a rooftop and “appearing to set the building on fire,” an alert from the LAFD said.

The 25-year-old man, who was not identified by police, climbed onto the bell tower of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, at 407 Chicago St.

He lighted a small fire beneath the rooftop cross, but the blaze failed to spread, authorities said. The fire scorched about one square foot of the roof but did not significantly damage the church, LAFD officials said.

Video from OnScene.TV shows a man, minus shirt and pants — and holding a pill bottle in his mouth — walking heel-to-toe as though balancing on a tightrope while crossing the roof of the four-story church. He then shimmies down scaffolding near the church before jumping onto the rooftops of adjacent buildings. He uses electrical wires from a utility line to scale the side of one building, the video shows.


Once on the ground, the man ran to a residential building, where he smashed a window to get in, LAPD Officer Mike Lopez said. The family inside was evacuated, officials said.

The man was taken into custody about 10:30 p.m. outside the residence and was taken to a hospital, LAFD officials said.

He was arrested on suspicion of arson and burglary, Lopez said.