Flames engulfed a Vietnamese Baptist church in Philadelphia as protests continued on Tuesday night following the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.
The aftermath, filmed by Pastor Philip Pham, shows followers gather in prayer after seeing their house of worship in ruins.
Protests kicked off in Philadelphia on Monday after news of Wallace’s death.
Wallace’s brother had called officers to his home during a psychological episode — Wallace was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, according to CNN. When police arrived, Wallace reportedly ignored multiple calls to drop a knife that he was holding. Police then fatally shot Wallace when he advanced towards them, according to spokesperson Officer Tanya Little.
The father of nine died from his wounds at the hospital shortly after. Protests, looting, property destruction and dozens of attacks against officers have occurred throughout the city since the news broke.
Following Tuesday’s unrest, Pham described his church’s building as a “total loss.”
“I have no idea why they attacked our church,” he told the Baptist Press. “They burned it from the roof. They threw flammable chemicals on the roof and [flames] burned through the roof.”
On weekdays, The New Life Baptist Church Of Philadelphia served as a community center for various civil work. Pham was especially concerned about three hard drives, which contained information on hundreds of clients regarding immigration, taxes and even marriage counseling.
Fortunately, the files he needed were safe.
“I saw the routers and modems and things surrounding the hard drives all burned, melted,” Pham recalled. “But that piece of hard drive, no harm. No harm at all. Just two feet above that, all melted.
“That is amazing how God knows our needs and answers our prayers. He is an almighty God. He granted our prayer.”
The church has been holding services via Facebook and Zoom since the onset of COVID-19. For now, it will be filming in another location, while a GoFundMe page raises funds for rebuilding.
“The money that is raised through this GoFundMe will be used to reconstruct the stage, the pastor’s office and the children’s room. It will also be used to replace any destroyed items such as hymn notes, Bibles, microphones, modems, etc.,” the fundraiser said.
It’s unclear whether other cases of arson have taken place amid the protests. Philadelphia officials imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday.
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