Asbarez – The Federal Bureau of Investigation Thursday announced a new reward of up to $50,000, over and above the previous $25,000 reward announced earlier by the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church and Armenian Cultural Center, for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the arson attack at the Armenian Cultural Center at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church. The total award that can be claimed for the hate crime information is now $75,000.
On September 17 the Board of Trustees of the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of San Francisco announced that around 4 a.m. the building adjacent to the church was set ablaze by arsonists.
“The building housed Vasbouragan Hall, as well as offices for St. Gregory Armenian Church and various organizations. The San Francisco Fire Department responded immediately, however, the building has suffered a great loss,” said the church board of trustees at the time.
Fire and police investigators called the incident a hate crime. The fire at the church complex occurred nearly a month after unknown assailants vandalized San Francisco’s Krouzian-Zekarian Vasbouragan Armenian School by spray painting anti-Armenian and pro-Azerbaijani graffiti on the exterior walls of the building. A day after the church complex fire, shots were fired at the KZV building.
Law enforcement officials said the incidents were hate crimes, and the FBI launched an investigation.
In a video message announcing the reward, FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair said “This act of violence was not just an attack on a building, but on a congregation. This was an attack on a community. We are counting on assistance from members of the community to keep our city safe.”
St. Gregory the Illuminator Church Trustee, Edith Khachatourian, also appeared in the video. “It is a tragic situation that we still find ourselves faced with such a threatening and violent level of hate.” She concluded, “We appreciate the ongoing support of elected officials and the continuing work of the San Francisco Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Individuals with information about the incidents are asked to contact the FBI San Francisco Division at (415) 553-7400 or tips.fbi.gov. Tips can remain anonymous. You can also contact the San Francisco Police Department’s Anonymous Tip Line at (415) 575-4444, or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD, which guarantees the callers’ anonymity.