Arson suspected in fire at Armenian church in San Francisco

Armenian church leaders in San Francisco say one of their church building was firebombed. This is the second time the Armenian community has been targeted this summer.

In July someone sprayed graffiti on an Armenian school, now church leaders say the vandal or vandals have escalated to a dangerous level, a fire bomb thrown at a church building in the early morning hours.

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San Francisco fire investigators confirmed that an investigation is underway at the St. Gregory The Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church following an early morning fire on Thursday. The fire department said it's still too early to definitively say if the incident was arson.

"We want the fact, and the science behind them we want the evidence behind the fact, so that if we do have to make a case, if it does become an arson case we're able to take that with complete confidence through the legal system," said Lt. Jonathan Baxter from San Francisco Fire Department.

In a letter posted on the church's website, staff informed community members that at about 4 a.m,someone set the property adjacent to the church ablaze.

"When I got the message that there was a molotov cocktail thrown on the church I was very upset and mad because I didn't want anything to happen to our church," said Rostom Aintablian, a chairman at the church. 

Aintablian said he was somewhat relieved when it turned out the church itself was spared. Instead the fire gutted the neighboring property used as a church office space and a gathering place for community members.

"As you can see the devastation is too much. I wasn't expecting it to be this bad," said Aintablian .

The incident was all the more frightening because it is the second act aimed at the Armenian community this summer alone. In July a vandal or vandals scrawled vulgar and threatening graffiti on an Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan Armenian School in the city.

Church leaders are concerned the two incidents are part of a disturbing pattern.

"This is the second one. It's can't be haphazard. It is connected to the other one. The way the destruction is here," said Aintablian.

At this point there is a $25,000 reward offered for information leading to an arrest in connection with the vandalism or the church.