Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Burn Down Church After Pastor Takes Part in Floyd Protest

August 7, 2020 Updated: August 7, 2020

A North Carolina man this week pleaded guilty to threatening to burn down a church that has a predominantly African American congregation.

John Bareswill, 63, admitted to calling a church in Virginia Beach and threatening to burn it down while using a racial slur.

According to an affidavit, a woman at New Hope Baptist Church answered the phone and put it on speaker. The man said words to the effect of “You [n-word] need to shut the [expletive] up” and “burning the church.”

The number was traced to Bareswill, who consented to having his phone’s contents reviewed by investigators.

The phone contained searches for “Who said all whites are racist,” “Black Lives Matter protest held in Virginia,” and “Who organized the protests from mount trashmore to town center.”

A pastor of the church had participated in a rally and prayer vigil at Mount Trashmore Park several days prior to call for justice for George Floyd, the black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.

The pastor didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bareswill also searched for “why are [n-word] protesting and looting” and “kkk stickers.”

The defendant initially said he didn’t call any religious institutions and said he was asleep when the call was placed on June 7. Investigators found he placed a call to another church but the call was not answered.

According to a plea agreement, Bareswill agreed to plead guilty to one count of threat to kill, injure, or intimidate, and threat to unlawfully damage or destroy a building by means of fire.

Bareswill faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a supervised release term of up to three years.

He was satisfied with his attorney’s assistance, according to the agreement.

Bareswill’s lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 12.

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