Man threatens fire-bombing in message to Detroit church

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Police are investigating a message left on the prayer hotline of the New Destiny Christian Fellowship in Detroit early Sunday in which a man threatened to fire bomb the church and used racial slurs.

The Rev. Horace Sheffield III said he received the message at around 6:30 a.m. Sunday on a phone line people use to request prayers from him and the other ministers. Sheffield said the caller instead left “a very racist rant that was also anti-church and a black church indictment.”

Officer Nicole Kirkwood, spokeswoman for the Detroit Police Department, said Sunday evening that police were “made aware of the voice mail and are investigating.”

The caller, whom Sheffield said sounded like a middle-aged man, talked about Sheffield’s church on the city’s west side being fire-bombed, and said he was sick of Sheffield and his church, Sheffield said.

Sheffield called and text-messaged the phone number the voice mail came from. The man he reached first responded with hateful text message, and then denied leaving a phone message, Sheffield said. He forwarded the voice mail and phone number to police when he made a report, he said.

“I take every threat seriously,” Sheffield said, though he said he’d received one similar call threatening violence and expressing hate many years ago. “I didn’t take this lightly.”

The call did not force the cancellation of Christmas services Sunday, Sheffield said.

Kirkwood declined to comment on the status of the investigation, and did not know if investigators had identified the person who left the message.

Sheffield also is CEO of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations Inc., and a community advocate. Recently, through that association, Sheffield called for people to boycott the Detroit Pistons and the NBA unless the team’s pending move to the new Little Caesars Arena included “people of color beyond the court.”

In an August statement, Sheffield wrote association members still have “on-going dissatisfaction with the economic injustice that we feel that the African-American community suffers as a result of the economic exploitation of both the African American NBA players and the African-American payers,” who buy tickets and spend money to support the NBA and Pistons.

Sheffield said Sunday he did not know what would have prompted the call.

“Obviously someone had some frustrations and decided to voice them,” he said. Sheffield said the call reflects the social climate.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau