Police investigating Corrigan park blaze as possible hate crime

Police investigating Corrigan park blaze as possible hate crime

CORRIGAN, TX (KTRE) - The Corrigan Police Department, the FBI, and the State Fire Marshal's Office are now investigating a park fire on the west side of town as a arson.

Police Chief Darrell Gibson said the Central Park off of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was set ablaze early Tuesday morning. Darrell Gibson said they talked to a woman who lives near the park who said that the park was fine when she left for work at 5:40 a.m. Tuesday morning. The first 911 call about the fire came in about five minutes later, the chief said.

"My first thought was actually who committed this crime, because it either has to be somebody that doesn't like children or doesn't like the city," Gibson said.

Investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office were working the scene Tuesday morning. They were photographing the burned park and looking for evidence that could indicate what kind of accelerants may have been used to start the fire.

The FBI and Texas Rangers have also assisted in the early investigation.

Early on, Gibson said it could be a possible hate crime, but the department along with the Rangers are just classifying it as arson until more is known.

"This has been a park that some people in the white community have not wanted around," Darrell Gibson said. "They wanted the park expanded at Corrigan West, but the city council felt this was a central location and that's where the park should be located."

Darrell Gibson said the park is a total loss.

"Most of the park will have to be re-built," Gibson said. "I hope this can be covered by insurance."

Corrigan Mayor Pro-tem Johnna Gibson said the city council voted to build the park near the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Fifth Street about a year ago because a study showed that most of the town's kids lived on the west side of town.

"It's sad," Johnna Gibson said. "This is a safe place for the kids. Why would they do that?"

Residents in the area say they don't care about the reasoning behind the burning, they are just upset about the loss of the park.

"I will want them to think about their own kids and consider the kids we have in this city," Joe Nathan Walker Sr said. "I would hope they come forth and own up to this. They only didn't destroy our kids; he destroyed the whole community's kids."

Walker lives next to the park and is worried about the children over the coming weeks.

"It was very heartbreaking to me," Walker said. "Spring Break is next week. What are the kids going to do?"

Gibson said the department handed over samples from the scene to be sent ,to a crime lab. Gibson said those samples could take several weeks.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Corrigan Police Department at (936) 398-2551. A $1,000 reward is being offered for information that could lead to an arrest. Gibson said Polk County Crime Stoppers and the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office are also offering $1,000 each for any information that could lead to an arrest, bringing the possible reward amount up to $3,000.

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