A 22-year-old Colorado man was recently sentenced to only 39 months behind bars for setting fire to a church in Loveland, Colorado, on Jan. 19, 2023. On May 5, 2023, Darion Ray Sexton pleaded guilty to hate crime charges.
Sexton recently admitted to intentionally setting fire to the church, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
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“This defendant admitted he set out to destroy this church which was determined to be a federal hate crime,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Mark D. Michaelk said in a statement. “FBI Denver worked with the Loveland Police Department to bring this man to justice. Anyone who attacks a house of worship will get the full attention of the FBI.”
“In addition to seeking justice for these crimes, the FBI remains committed to providing resources for potential victims, such as the event with faith leaders held in this county the day before the crime occurred,” Michaelk added.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) pointed out that the agency analyzed fire debris and evidence at the church.
“We immediately committed all ATF resources to addressing the impact of this arson by deploying our certified fire investigator, an ATF Task Force Officer with their ATF-trained accelerant detection canine and ATF laboratory services to analyze fire debris and evidence,” ATF agent Brent Beavers said.
In plea agreement documents, Sexton said he intentionally set Abiding Love Lutheran Church in Loveland on fire. The 20-year-old man told authorities he threw two Molotov cocktails at the church.
Sexton said he decided to set the building on fire because of the “religious character of the church.”
In a press release, the U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, Cole Finegan, said, “Places of worship are critical for our communities, and this office stands ready to protect them. Religious freedom means being free to worship without fear. Our office will take every appropriate action to ensure that every Coloradan enjoys this essential freedom.”
Sexton’s arrest and prosecution came after a cooperated investigative effort by the FBI, ATF and the Loveland Police and Fire Departments.
Those responsible for prosecuting Sexton include Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan D. Fields for the District of Colorado and Trial Attorney Maura White of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.