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Black Man is Prime Suspect in Church Fire, Newspaper Says

July 3, 1996

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ A black man being held for a probation violation is the prime suspect in an arson fire that destroyed the church of a black congregation, a newspaper reported today.

The June 20 fire in the Immanuel Christian Fellowship church attracted national attention because of the series of fires in predominantly black churches in the South.

Willamette Week, a free-distribution newspaper, quoted police sources as saying the suspect is Antoine Jamar Dean, 20, of Portland.

However, police Lt. Cliff Madison said today that it was premature to name anyone as a prime suspect. He confirmed that authorities were interested in someone who is in custody, but said police also are looking at other people and following other leads.

Dean’s attorney, Brian Conry, told the newspaper he was aware his client was a suspect.

Willamette Week quoted a source as saying Dean might have been motivated by an argument with his girlfriend, who attends the church.

Dean, identified as an affiliate of the Crips gang who has had several convictions, was arrested June 22 for a probation violation. He was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison.

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