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Man set fire to Valpo church early Sunday morning, police say
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Man set fire to Valpo church early Sunday morning, police say

Chad Olsen

Chad Olsen

VALPARAISO — A 42-year-old Valparaiso man faces a felony charge of arson to a religious facility after being caught by a surveillance camera early Sunday setting fire to an exterior keypad at the Calvary Church Life Change Center at 1304 E. Evans Ave., police said.

Chad Olsen also faces a felony count of criminal mischief to a religious facility, Valparaiso police said.

Join Tristan DeFord, Jami Rieck, and Nancy Zakutanksky on a shift working for Superior Ambulance in Merrillville.

Police say they were called out at 8:04 a.m. to the church property and were shown the burned keypad and unlocked doors.

"I observed a large black marking above the burnt keypad, along with burnt pieces of the keypad on the ground," an officer reported.

Nothing was found missing or out of place inside the building and no one was found on site, police said.

Surveillance footage showed a man — later identified as Olsen from prior encounters with police — walking up to and repeatedly kicking the building doors at 5:34 a.m. Sunday, according to the incident report.

"At the doors the male took out a lighter from his pocket and began lighting the keypad on fire," police said. "Once the keypad was on fire, the male walked back towards Evans Ave. and left the property."

Police said they located Olsen a short time later about a mile from the church property wearing the same clothes as was seen in the surveillance footage and he was taken into custody.

Damage to the church property was estimated at a minimum of $1,800, police said.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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