Police are investigating whether a fire that erupted at a Michigan home was the result of a hate crime, according to Towleroad.
The house was owned by Nikki Joly and Chris Moore, the former of whom is the director of the Jackson Pride Center. The pair lost their pets in the blaze.
Pride Source says that firefighters are "suspicious" of how quickly the fire grew. There is "still a lot of work left to do," says Elmer Hitt, the director of police and fire service in the city of Jackson. FBI Public Relations Officer Timothy Wiley added that the Ann Arbor Resident Agency of the Detroit Field Office of the FBI is providing assistance to the Jackson Police Department in attempting to confirm whether this was, in fact, a hate-violence incident.
Hitt added that an "accelerant" had been used to grow the fire and that detection dogs were employed following reports about the smell of kerosene at the scene.
Joly was bringing Moore's lunch to her workplace when the fire began. The couple's two German shepherds and three cats died in the house.
"Most of their neighbors absolutely loved them and adored them," said Karyl Baker, a close friend of the couple. "If this is arson, we don't think this is the end of it by any means."
No arrests have been made yet and police are cautioning locals about jumping to conclusions.
Police had received threats against LGBT people in their neighborhood shortly before Gay Pride celebrations earlier this summer.
"I saw something on a site about marching to Blackman Park and raising a flag? I hope they are not planning to raise a gay flag. That is an in your face declaration of war and will be met with a violent response. This IS the queer agenda," read the email from Jackson Area Landlord Association's President Robert Tulloch.
Joly and Moore have been vocal community members in support of LGBTQ rights.
"While we are extremely glad that Nikki and Chris are unharmed, Equality Michigan is gravely concerned about the devastating fire at their home, which is being investigated as a possible arson. As director of the Jackson Pride Center, Nikki has been an unapologetic voice for LGBTQ equality in Jackson and across Michigan. Without him, the Jackson NDO would never have passed. We have offered any and all assistance that EQMI can provide to Nikki and Chris," said Nathan Triplett, EQMI's director of public policy and political action.
"The high-profile role that Nikki and Chris have played in pro-equality efforts in Jackson in recent months and the proximity of this suspicious fire to Jackson's first-ever pride festival raise serious concerns about the possibility that this may have been a hate crime," Triplett continued. "Equality Michigan has been in touch with officials in Jackson and law enforcement and will continue to monitor the investigation closely as it proceeds. No Michigander should fear for their safety or well-being based on who they are or who they love."
Supportive locals have begun placing rainbow flags on the porch of their home.
Police are encouraging anyone with more information on the incident to come forward. Further threats against the local LGBTQ community are currently under investigation.
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