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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Police make arrest in St. Charles fire as parish prays for healing

March 26, 2021 Updated Fri., March 26, 2021 at 9:37 p.m.

Police arrested a man Friday in connection to the arson that destroyed part of St. Charles Parish School March 18, according to a Spokane Police Department news release.

Police identified suspect Rio Antonio Mirabal, 22, through a tip from a community member after police released surveillance footage of the suspected arsonist Thursday afternoon, the release said.

Forensic evidence collected at the scene also connected Mirabal to the burglary and arson, according to the release. Mirabal has two prior misdemeanor convictions and does not have a permanent address, the release said.

Mirabal was still in Spokane County Jail as of Friday evening, when about 80 parishioners gathered in the church’s parking lot to pray the rosary in response to the arson and for Rev. Esteban Soler, who was sleeping as the fire grew. A passing police officer saw the flames and woke Soler up by banging on the building’s windows.

“By the grace of God he was saved,” parishioner Ashley Osborne said Friday.

Deacon Roy Buck led the socially distanced group in their quiet Hail Marys as cold gusts of wind swept through the church’s parking lot.

After the prayer, Soler took the microphone and reminded parishioners to also pray for whoever set the fire.

“Every difficulty, as heavy as it may seem, is an opportunity for God to work with his grace and to empower us with the same grace,” Soler said. “Let us never be discouraged, let us look forward, let us keep rebuilding and let us keep growing with the grace of God.”

For Emelie Braxton, whose children include one first grader and two preschoolers at St. Charles, the fire has meant even more teaching from home. She’s reminding herself that the situation is temporary as the school looks for an alternate space .

She’s also been reminding herself that, “God teaches us to forgive even when it’s hard.”

Osborne is equally hopeful about rebuilding and called the arrest Friday, “a little closure.”

Macy Norton, Osborne’s 8-year-old daughter in second grade at St. Charles, said she’s felt down since the fire.

“It just makes me sad that they lit the school on fire because I love the school a lot,” Norton said.

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