Investigators are searching for the arsonist who torched a building that serves as a resource for the African American LGBT community in South Dallas. Meanwhile, the victims hope it is not what they are led to initially fear: a targeted hate crime.
"They never hurt nobody. They never did anything to nobody," said Marcus Simpson, a client who has used the services of Abounding Prosperity Incorporated since he was a teenager. He had this to say about the arsonist, whoever that person might be.
"They're a monster. I mean, to see them do something like this in a small community that's trying to help build the community, it's sad," Simpson said.
Abounding Prosperity, operating out of a renovated turn-of-the-century home at the corner of Peabody and S. Harwood, has provided counseling, medical treatment, and STD prevention services since 2005. Abounding Prosperity CEO Kirk Myers says the arsonist wrestled open a back gate and used an accelerant to start the fire at the back of the building. Before Dallas firefighters could put it out, the fire gutted a back office and caused heavy smoke damage to the rest of the building and its contents.
"There's going to be an interruption of HIV treatment and HIV testing starting today," he said of the services they provide to roughly 2,000 men each year.
While Dallas-Fire Rescue confirms that the fire appears to have been intentionally set, they don't yet know the reason why. Myers says the immediate reaction is to assume they were targeted on purpose for the work that they do.
"You know where my mind immediately goes is that the political climate in the world we're living in today is creating an atmosphere where this sort of activity could be acceptable in someone's mind," said Myers.
Neighbors captured some of the fire in grainy cell phone video. Witnesses saw a man erratically driving away at 6 a.m. But Kirk Myers says they hadn't received any specific threats.
"None that would give us any cause for concern for this sort of outcome," he said. "So that is why this is especially alarming for us today."
An outcome that has critical services on hold and police looking for an arsonist and their reason why.
Dallas Fire Rescue asks that anyone with information that could help with this investigation to contact DFR’s Fire Investigation Office at (214) 670-4319.