Man charged with arson for church fire

ESCANABA — A Gladstone male arrested in connection with a fire and vandalism at an Escanaba church that was broken into Monday evening was officially charged in Delta County District Court Tuesday.

Thomas Andrew Harris, 19, of 901 Minnesota Ave., Gladstone, was charged with the following four counts: third-degree arson; breaking and entering a building with intent; larceny in a building; and malicious destruction of property $1,000 to $20,000.

Harris was arrested Monday night following Escanaba Public Safety’s initial investigation into a fire at Harbor Lights Church of God, located at 612 2nd Ave. S.

Firefighters responded to the 7:07 p.m. fire emergency to find the interior of the church filled with smoke. Upon their arrival, the blaze had been put out with a fire extinguisher by Harris, who was later charged with intentionally starting the fire in the church kitchen, explained Det. Lt. Darin Hunter.

In addition to the fire and smoke damage, the church was also vandalized throughout the building with paint on the floor, walls, and multiple items in the church, according to public safety which continues to investigate the incident to determine if additional individuals were involved.

“It’s sad to see these activities happen in our community,” Escanaba Pubic Safety Det. Darin Hunter commented this morning, describing the recent incident as one of the worst cases of vandalism he’s seen since the Escanaba athletic field was vandalized in 2008.

Harris remains lodged in the county jail in lieu of a $175,000 cash or surety bond. He was ordered to have no contact with the church pastor and ordered to not be within 500 feet of the church property.

Harris is scheduled for a preliminary examination in district court on Aug. 31 when the judge will determine if the case should be bound over to circuit court.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,