Caught on Camera: Gas thief accidentally sets church vans on fire

National News

OREGON (CNN) – A church in Beavercreek, Oregon will now have to replace three church vans after a thief searching for gas accidentally set them on fire.

The crime was caught on surveillance cameras.

“Well, it looks pretty bad, and of course what you can’t see on video is you still smell the burnt vans.”

Pastor Mike Mutchler says he isn’t angry at the thief who caught three church vans on fire in the Grand View Baptist Church parking lot.

“I don’t mind justice being done but I also want to be compassionate on any offender as well.”

On Sunday around 2:00 a.m., surveillance cameras show a driver pull into the parking lot.

“You see a person parking down further on our property and walking casually up with a drill in one hand and a gas can in another.”

He says the man was drilling into the vans gas tank to steal gas when it suddenly caught fire.

“What you see is him running away surprised because the fire, drops the drill picks it up, runs back to his vehicle.”

The fire then spread to two more vans.

“We would much rather people knock on our door and say they need gas money, it’s a whole lot cheaper than replacing gas tanks.”

The church doesn’t have comprehensive insurance on the older vans.

The pastor says they’ll have to come up with an estimated $30,000 to replace the three vans.

“These vans are used every day to pick up children for our summer program and then during the year for our school program.”

They’ve had people try and steal gas before.

And just a week ago in a case the pastor believes is unrelated, someone cut the catalytic converter off a van.

Still, he wants the church parking lot to remain open and welcoming to the community.

To the thief – he has a message.

“Just know that when he needs help, we’ll be here to help him we have an addiction program every Friday night. We help people throughout the week who need funds and help.”

Mutchler says people have tried to steal gas from church vehicles about 16 times in the last three years.

For the latest breaking news and stories from across the tri-state, follow Eyewitness News on Facebook and Twitter.

(This story was originally published on July 23, 2019)

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.