Man charged with hate crimes related to burning of two historic Arizona churches
Oct 8, 2023, 6:30 AM
PHOENIX — An Arizona man was indicted on hate crimes Thursday after he was accused of burning down two historic churches, authorities said.
The indictment alleges that Eric Ridenour, 58, of Tucson, burned down Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church and First Presbyterian Church on May 22. Both churches are more than 100 years old and located on Church Square, in a historic district in the border town of Douglas, approximately two hours southeast of Tucson.
Ridenour intentionally started the fires in both churches because of his sexist and homophobic motives, according to the indictment. The churches have women and members of the LGBTQ community serving as church leaders.
Ridenour was arrested on May 23 and charged by complaint with maliciously damaging or destroying both buildings by means of fire. On June 22, he was initially indicted on two counts of the same.
Ridenour is being charged for arson of property used in interstate commerce, obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs by fire and using fire to commit federal felony.
If convicted, Ridenour could face a lengthy prison sentence with overlapping terms.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Church Square is the only block in the nation containing churches from four different denominations: Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Methodist.