Nonprofit hopes video leads to suspect in LGBTQ center fire

Someone wearing a hooded sweatshirt was seen entering the area of the fire before the explosion.
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Almost a month after a fire, a burned pile of wood still sat outside the deep-yellow colored house Abounding Prosperity used as its community center.

The pile and charred areas of the house at 1816 Peabody Avenue are an unsettling reminder of the act of arson that victimized the nonprofit agency on July 7, 2017.

Now, Abounding Prosperity’s staff hopes some newly-released surveillance images and a $5,000 reward can help lead to the identify and arrest of the individual who torched the building.

”It has been an overwhelming time for us,” said Kirk Myers, president and CEO of Abounding Prosperity. 

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The South Dallas-based organization has been helping to address the health, social and economic needs of LGBT members of the back community for more than a decade.

"The community is rattled," Meyers said. "The organization is certainly rattled. It has displaced programs.”

Surveillance video shows the suspected arsonist carrying a gas can behind the community center’s property just after 5:30 a.m. on July 7. The man, seen wearing a striped hooded shirt, makes several trips between his dark-colored compact car and the center’s backyard.

”The video is very detailed,“ Myers said.

About 27 minutes into the video, the man returns to the backyard and there's an explosion. Seconds later, the man is seen running away from the fire scene. This time, he's shirtless. Abounding Prosperity workers say it's possible the man was burned.

The man jumps into his vehicle and drives off. The car has noticeable damage on the rear driver's side.

"We certainly have concern about a hate crime being perpetrated in the area at this time, certainly with our political climate being what it is now," Meyers said.

The organization’s staff is still working to recover from the fire. However, it’s been tough. The burned out community center is where the staff used to do HIV testing and provide a safe space for LGBT youth and other community members.

”Who would put someone up to this?” Myers said. "And what’s the motivation behind it?”

Abounding Prosperity is still raising money to help recover from the loss. A wide range of people have been encouraging the organization. Cards and notes of support are coming in from across the country.

”New York, Wyoming,” Myers said. "Places that we wouldn’t have known that we would have touched.”

As Abounding Prosperity works to relocate and recover, its staff believes the community will be safer once the alleged arsonist is off the streets.