A normally-peaceful Farmington neighborhood near the high school and Centene Center experienced uncharacteristic activity Wednesday evening, stretching into the late hours of the night, as multiple law enforcement vehicles, a K-9 unit, an ambulance, and a fire truck descended on a house at the end of Kinley Drive, and a couple of flash-bangs were used.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office, Farmington Police Department, and St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department conducted a search of the residence on Kinley Drive in Farmington Wednesday night in connection with an investigation of a fire that destroyed the Gospel Trinity Pentecostal Church of God in Iron County early Wednesday morning. Officials determined the fire to be arson, and they were looking for a person they identified as a suspect.
As a result of the search, Brendan Andrew Harris, 30, of Farmington, was arrested on a probation and parole warrant. Harris had been a suspect in the alleged church arson and is now formally charged in Iron County with two counts of second-degree arson and one count of second-degree burglary. Harris is currently being held at the St. Francois County Jail without bond.
Farmington Police Chief Rick Baker explained the fire marshal’s office was investigating the alleged burglary and arson of the Gospel Trinity Pentecostal Church located on Iron County Road 6.
“During the investigation, [the fire marshal] came up with a suspect whom he believed was living on Kinley Drive with his grandmother and girlfriend,” Baker said. Family members confirmed Harris lives with his grandmother and girlfriend. One of the family members said Wednesday night that she was extremely worried when the grandmother did not answer her attempts to contact her.
Baker said the scene escalated when officers received information that Harris was inside the dwelling and attempts to contact the man were unsuccessful.
“The officers did not receive a response when they knocked on the door of the residence,” said the chief. “The fire marshal then obtained a search warrant and arrest warrant for the suspect. Again, after no response, officers breached the door of the home and located the suspect in the basement. He was taken into custody without incident.”
Information that Harris may have been responsible for the church fire came earlier Wednesday morning as the man allegedly confessed to his mother.
A probable cause statement from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office states that a deputy was dispatched to an address on Route U at approximately 10:10 a.m. Wednesday in reference to reported harassment, threats, and theft not in progress.
The deputy arrived and spoke with Harris’ mother, who reportedly stated that Harris told her he burned down the Gospel Trinity Pentecostal Church on Iron County Road 6 and a mobile home trailer located on Iron County Road 96.
The report states Harris’ mother further mentioned that her son had brought a large amount of musical equipment and housing materials to her home. The woman said all the property appeared to be stolen, according to the statement. The items were reportedly seized by the Iron County Sheriff’s Office.
Police later talked to the alleged victim of the arson fire. The man reportedly confirmed that the items brought to Harris’ mother’s residence were inside the church before the building burned down.
Along with the case filed Wednesday, Harris has a pending felony charge of possession of a controlled substance that was filed on Sept. 8 in Madison County.
A search of the man’s criminal history showed he has previously pleaded guilty to multiple past felonies in St. Francois County. Court records indicate Harris entered a guilty plea to third-degree domestic assault in 2012 and pleaded guilty to property damage the following year. He was given suspended prison sentences and placed on two years of supervised probation, which he violated in both cases.
In 2014, Harris pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, for which he received a suspended 15-year prison sentence. He was instead placed on five years of supervised probation, violating the probation terms within a year, and sent to prison. The man entered guilty pleas to two counts of second-degree burglary in 2016. He was sentenced to four years in prison for the crime, according to court documents.