Arrest made after fire breaks out in lobby of historic Phoenix church

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Booking photo of 29-year-old Marcellus Mais. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Booking photo of 29-year-old Marcellus Mais. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
Fire broke out at the historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix Friday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Fire broke out at the historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix Friday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Fire broke out at the historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix Friday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Fire broke out at the historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix Friday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Fire broke out at the historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix Friday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Fire broke out at the historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix Friday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Fire broke out at the historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix Friday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Fire broke out at the historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix Friday night. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

An arrest has been made in connection with a fire at the oldest African-American church in Arizona.

During the investigation, a suspect approached Phoenix police at the scene and claimed responsibility, Phoenix Fire Capt. Red Bigler said.

The suspect is identified as Marcellus Mais, 29. He was booked into the Maricopa County Jail.

Bigler said the incident does not appear to be a hate crime.

A service will be held Sunday at the church parking lot at 9 a.m. All are welcome to attend.

From there, church leaders will have to figure out where future services will be held until repairs can be done.

The historic Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 20 S. Eighth St. was established during the pioneer days, according to its website.

“They had some smoke coming from the foyer area,”  Bigler said.

Firefighters initially responded to reports of a car fire near Eighth and Washington streets. Once there, they saw smoke coming from the church.  

“There’s some significant charring in that foyer so something was actually going for a while,” Bigler said. "Put off a lot of smoke and caused a lot of burn damage in there.”

Although the fire was so confined, Bigler said fire crews called for more help.

On December 15, 2010, the Phoenix City Council voted to approve Tanner as a designated historic landmark. The Chapel is one of the only 14 properties in Phoenix to receive landmark status.

According to Phoenix architect, Lloyd LeRaine Pike, Tanner is a significant example of Gothic Revival architecture, which is rare in Phoenix.

[Google map: 20 S. Eighth St.]

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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