A portion of the New Shiloh Christian Center in Melbourne, Florida, was burned in the early hours of Feb. 16.
The church, which has about 1,500 members, may have been set on fire by arsonists, but fire sprinklers who helped contain the blaze to a storage unit connected to the building. The property sustained about $5,000 worth of damage.
The church was also vandalized in the incident. A swastika and the phrase “Allahu Akbar,” were scrawled onto church property.
"To find something like that in 2015 is unbelievable. It's just disheartening," New Shiloh Christian Center Bishop Jacquelyn Gordon told WKMG. "They told us that this is definitely a hate crime and that they're going to patrol our area even more and just look out for us and they thought it was senseless and I feel the same way.”
The vandalism and fire are being investigated as criminal mischief and arson, respectively. The case is not being considered a hate crime. "I would just say that everything is being looked at. All avenues are going to be explored. If it meets that criteria, that would be something that would be looked at," said Lt. Cheryl Trainer.
Police are working to determine if the vandalism and fire happened at the same time.
Gordon and her staff tried to cover up the graffiti, "It really took a lot out of me when I drove up and I saw that sign on the side of the building because I'm preaching God is love, why would someone take the time to put a sign up to show hatred," she said.
This is the second time in less than two weeks that the church, which is under construction, has been targeted by vandals.