A 22-year-old arsonist was sentenced to 39 months in federal prison for the insidious crime of setting a church ablaze. Darion Ray Sexton entered a guilty plea on May 5, 2023 after being charged with a federal hate crime.
The attack occurred in Loveland, Colorado last January. Sexton admitted to the crime, according to a Justice Department press release. The incident surprisingly resulted in a swift effort to achieve justice, something previously lacking in matters concerning church buildings.
FBI Special Agent Mark D. Michaelk reported, “This defendant admitted he set out to destroy this church, which was determined to be a federal hate crime.”
He added that any person who attacks a house of worship will be subjected to the “full attention of the FBI.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Sexton admitted to throwing two Molotov cocktails at the church. One struck the front door and the other hit the entrance to the basement.
The DOJ press release confirmed the suspect said he carried out the violent act “due to the religious character of the church.” He further confessed his intention to destroy the building where locals gathered to worship.
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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said that the defendant has now been “held accountable” for the attack on the church.
In a statement, she said that the agency will work diligently to bring to justice “those who seek to destroy houses of worship and interfere with the fundamental right to practice religion freely.”
Days after the attack, federal and local investigators arrested Sexton and charged him with the act. While it is unclear exactly what of a religious nature motivated him, the suspect admitted he set the blaze over theological reasons.
He faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
ATF agent Brent Beavers said that while arson is destructive and potentially deadly, it further “undermines the sense of safety within places of worship.”
He cited the tremendous resources poured into investigating the church attack and credited cooperation across agencies for bringing the suspect to justice.