Suspect arrested for Millington church arson

Church arson suspect arrested
Johnny Riveria, 28
Johnny Riveria, 28

(WMC-TV) – A 28-year-old man is charged with the arson of a Millington church.

Police tell Action News 5 that Johnny Riveria, 28, told them how and why he set the fire. But police are not releasing that information at this time.

"I am very pleased with the interaction with the citizens and the officers which allows them to feel free to come and let the officers know what they know," said Chief Rita Stanbeck, Millington Police Department.

"It's a different type of arson. It's nothing like that. He's not a habitual fire starter or pyromaniac or anything like that. He had a reason for setting it, which we're not going to release right now," said Inspector Charlie Coleman, Millington Police Department.

Police say they received a tip about Riveria shortly after the fire started. Within 12 hours, they had him in custody on an outstanding vandalism warrant. Investigators say he soon confessed to intentionally setting the fire that destroyed the church office.

The fire was started in the office portion of the church. The office area is separated from the main sanctuary by a firewall, which kept the flames from spreading.

Police say Riveria does not have a permanent home. In the past, he has been the recipient of some St. William Catholic Church outreach.

While ATF Agents, state bomb and arson squad investigators, and even an accelerant sniffing dog spent the day on scene, ServPro crews raced to clean up the sanctuary.

"There is a wedding here Saturday. So after today we'll release the whole property back to the church and they tell us the wedding will go on as scheduled," said Chief Gary Graves, Millington Fire Department.

The sanctuary was spared, but the church offices will have to be completely rebuilt.

Fire crews say the sanctuary will be ready for weekend services.

Police say Riveria does have an arrest history, though nothing this serious.

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