Church Members Forgive Arsonist
A member of the Aryan Brotherhood has been sentenced to 450 months — more than 37 years — in prison for charges of hate crimes included the attempted murder of an African-American man with disabilities. 26-year-old Steven Scott Cantrell of Crane, Texas, is charged with the arson of a historic African-American church and of a series of racially-motivated arsons in December of 2010, all in an attempt to “gain status” in the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
Cantrell has pleaded guilty to damaging religious property and to violating federal laws by interfering with housing rights. He must also pay $550,780 in restitution to the victims.
Cantrell admitted that on Dec. 28, 2010, he set fire to Faith in Christ Church, a predominantly African-American church, as part of an effort to murder a disabled African-American man who he saw passing by the church in his wheelchair. Cantrell admitted that he started the fire intending to kill the disabled African-American man whom he believed lived at a shelter within the church. The man was not hurt. Cantrell ransacked the church, wrote a series of threatening and racist messages in large letters across the wall of the church next to the pastor’s office, and “tagged” the church with references to the Aryan Brotherhood.
…In addition to the church, Cantrell admitted that he set fire to the house of another man in the community because he believed that man to be Jewish and because he sought to injure, intimidate or interfere with that man’s right to rent or occupy that house. Cantrell also admitted to setting fire to Craig’s Gym in violation of federal arson laws. At his plea hearing, Cantrell acknowledged that he set fire to Craig’s Gym because he believed the owners served Mexican-Americans and African-American patrons and because the gym was owned by a Caucasian man married to a woman of Mexican descent. Cantrell added that he felt “disrespected” by a Caucasian man marrying a woman of Mexican descent because he believed “the white race needed to be kept pure.”
At the hearing, the Rev. Ellis Lane of the church spoke face-to-face to Cantrell, who said he wished to “apologize to the victims” and asked for forgiveness. Lane and the church have repeatedly expressed forgiveness towards Cantrell; at the hearing, Lane said,
“Don’t let it build up more hate because you think somebody hates you for what you did to Faith in Christ. Because we don’t. Just get yourself some help.”
The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Crane Police Department and the Texas Department of Insurance were all part of the invetigation of Cantrell’s frankly chilling crimes targeting those who were not in accord with his troubling notions of ”racial purity.” Crime does not pay and neither does hate, either.
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Photo by Kratka Photography