By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
Police have arrested a 38-year-old man on suspicion of a hate crime in connection with the writing of racist graffiti on a downtown Bakersfield church.
James Vincent Abernathy was arrested about 4 p.m. Thursday and booked on suspicion of vandalizing a church because of race and damaging property to violate civil rights, according to the Sheriff's Office website.
Police said interviews with witnesses at Cain Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church established probable cause leading to Abernathy's arrest.
At about 8:30 a.m. Monday, a congregant called the pastor's daughter to say there were fire trucks at the church in the 600 block of California Avenue. The Rev. Timothy Coston arrived and found a large trash bin behind the church had caught fire and scorched a section of the building's rear wall.
He also found racial slurs written in black marker on two areas of the wall. A swastika and "KKK" was written on one section, and "N------ GO HOME" written next to a second swastika on another.
Damage was estimated at $10,000.
An earlier fire on church property burned an abandoned wooden storage shed to the ground. That blaze occurred Sept. 9. The fires are under investigation by Bakersfield Fire Department's arson unit.
Abernathy has a lengthy criminal record, including convictions for arson, vandalism and drunk and disorderly conduct.
Cain's membership is predominantly black, but the pastor has said the church has members from all backgrounds. Cain held a prayer breakfast Sept. 8 to celebrate the 133rd anniversary of its founding.