|Updated: 8/19 5:17 pm
||Published: 8/19 4:16 pm
Investigators are looking at the fire that destroyed a historic church in Okay as a possible arson and hate crime.
FOX23's Ian Silver learned this was not the first time the church was targeted; over the past two months, graffiti was sprayed on the church and stained glass windows were knocked out.
Cody Thompson was home next door to the church just before midnight Saturday when his dog started barking.
Thompson looked outside to see smoke coming from a church window.
"It went from me seeing smoke out the back to being able to put 60-foot burns on a tree in 10, 20 minutes," he said.
As quickly as the fire grew, Thompson began to worry about his own house and his grandmother's car parked close by.
"She was in the hospital. They didn't leave the keys, so we had to wait here for somebody to come move it. So people were hosing down the house, the car… because that's cedar on my house," he said.
Chief Fred Winters told FOX23 News that on June 2, somebody spray-painted graffiti on the church that attacked several religions and referenced Satan.
"Then a week ago this last Sunday, two of the windows was broken out. Two of the stained glass windows," said Winters.
He thinks it's the same people each time.
"A person that showed up first down there, showed me where the fire was. It was at one of the stained glass windows. The board was removed that they put up," said Winters.
Now he's looking into the possibility it could be a hate crime.
"I've been hearing words about hate crimes and stuff like that. You don't really know … a church as a target just seems kind of odd … unless there was something you wanted to make a point across or something," said Winters.
The bell in the steeple was the only thing that survived the fire. The congregation will be meeting under the church pavilion for now or at a local community center if the weather's bad.