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The North Carolina man who threatened to burn down a black church in Virginia Beach pleaded guilty to the federal crime Wednesday.
John Malcolm Bareswill, a 63-year-old Catawba resident, was arrested two months ago for allegedly calling the New Hope Baptist Church on June 7 and making racially derogatory remarks to its congregates before threatening to set the church on fire.
“You [n------] need to shut your mouth,” Bareswill said on the call, according to a member of the church. “We are going to burn the church.”
Virginia Beach police and the FBI were able to track the phone call back to Bareswill and make the arrest. Though Bareswill initially denied making the racist call, authorities found that he looked up black churches in the state of Virginia online moments before making the call.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia noted that the threatening call was made just days after one of the church’s leaders took part in a prayer vigil and march in memory of George Floyd, where local community members discussed organizing a month-long boycott of local businesses in Virginia Beach.
Police records show that Bareswill looked into who exactly was behind the protest on the internet, concluded that it was a member of the New Hope Baptist Church, and attempted to use a two-number prefix to keep his number from being identified by members of the church.
James Allen, an associate minister of the New Hope Baptist Church told WAVY-TV in June that they hoped this arrest would keep other black congregations around the country on their toes about racially charged threats and crimes.
“The reason why we are doing this publicly now is to make sure that every church and every citizen in Virginia Beach is made aware that this type of thing is still going on,” he said. “We need you more than ever to open your mouth and say there’s no place in America for this type of behavior right now.”
Bareswill has been charged with the federal crime of making a telephonic threat to kill, injure, and intimidate, and threatening to unlawfully damage or destroy a building by means of fire, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He will be sentenced Nov. 12 and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Cover: Malcolm Bareswill, 63, pleaded guilty after threatening to burn down the New Hope Baptist Church in Virginia Beach. (Photo courtesy of Western Tidewater Regional Jail)