Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Burn Down a Black Church in Virginia

Illustration for article titled Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Burn Down a Black Church in Virginia
Photo: Western Tidewater Regional Jail

A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to threatening to burn down a Black church in Virginia.


On June 7, 63-year-old John Malcolm Bareswill, a resident of Catawba, N.C., made a threatening phone call to a church located in Virginia Beach, Va., according to NBC News. Only several days earlier, one of the church leaders had participated in a rally and prayer related to the death of George Floyd. According to people in the church who heard the call, Bareswill said, “you [racial slur] need to shut up,” and went on to say he would burn the church down.

Bareswill was arrested in June and on Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to “a telephonic threat to use fire to kill, injure or intimidate any individual, or unlawfully to damage or destroy a building,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Bareswill will be sentenced on Nov. 12, and he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. Prosecutors have said that sentences typically aren’t the maximum allowed and sentencing guidelines will more than likely factor into the decision.

Bareswill initially denied he was responsible for the call but a quick search of his phone records by investigators determined that was a lie. Investigators also found that Bareswill search history included such inquiries as “who said all whites are racist,” and “Who organized the protests from mount trashmore to town center.”

I can’t help but shake my head at the fact that dude searched “who said all whites are racist?” then turned around and did something incredibly racist. The lack of self-awareness by white people would be hilarious if it didn’t get people killed.

Anyway, the Mount Trashmore inquiry was notable as Mount Trashmore Park was the site of the demonstration that the church leader attended. Bareswill blocked his number from being recognized by caller ID but police managed to trace Bareswill’s number after obtaining the church’s phone records.

Sadly, a similar incident occurred earlier this year when a white man pleaded guilty to setting fire to the three Black churches over the course of ten days in Louisiana. G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, released a statement saying, “No one should be made to fear for their safety or the safety of their church for speaking out, and we will seek justices for victims of those who allegedly violate that right.”

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.



Bareswill initially denied he was responsible for the call...

BTW, Mt. Trashmore?  Y’all fuckin’ with us, right?